Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

How to engage modern donors: 5 expert-approved strategies

April 02, 2021
A donor sits with their laptop in a room with many plants.

Much has been written about how to approach younger generations over the years. While Millennials were the first “digital native” generation and Gen Z grew up with even more technology, are the rules for communication with these younger generations really different?

If you answered yes, you’d be right and wrong.

The delivery of your message may vary when you communicate with different generations (from direct mail to email, text, and social media), but the basic principles of communication and engagement remain the same: Be authentic, be relevant, and be present. These principles hold true generation after generation for one simple reason—they work.

The modern donor expects user-friendly tools and transparency from the nonprofit organizations they support. Today’s donors, notably Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z donors, also your organization to keep them in the loop about various opportunities. Digital tools—website, social media, email blasts, online advertising—engage current donors.

Younger generations and giving trends

According to Forbes, there are two primary types of donors: traditional donors (Baby Boomers and Gen X) and next-gen donors (Millennials and Gen Z). As traditional donors are more established in their careers, they tend to have more discretionary spending and can donate larger sums of money. However, next-gen donors are still coming into their own and are more likely to increase their donation amounts year over year, meaning a lot of growth potential for nonprofit organizations. 

You’ve likely found that many of your current supporters belong to Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, but if you’re not reaching out to your younger donors, you should start now. 

By reaching out to these younger generations now, you’ll show that you care about them, even when they have less disposable income. Like any relationship, it’s about being there through the high and low times. Make them feel welcome and valued now because it will be harder to woo them later.

Don’t assume younger generations can’t donate. That being said, both Millennials and Gen Z generations are passionate about making a difference in the world and more interested in taking action for causes they care about than gaining new possessions in their personal lives.

Aside from it being a good policy to diversify your donor base and a smart way to sustain and grow your nonprofit organization, there’s also the “great wealth transfer” to keep in mind. We are in the early years of the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in U.S. history as trillions of dollars pass to Gen X and Millennials from their parents and grandparents. While younger donors may not be able to make major gifts today, cultivating that relationship now will pay off in the long run.

Winning engagement strategies

Align your communications plans with the following characteristics to make sure your message appeals to the modern donor. Regardless of generation, these strategies keep donors informed and engaged.

Share and connect. The most frequent action taken by the modern donor is connecting with an organization’s social media. Post frequently to your nonprofit organization’s social platforms, including links back to your website so new supporters can learn more about your cause. 

Make your messages stand out. In our 24/7 culture, the modern donor is more likely to tune out irrelevant messages quicker than in the past, meaning your nonprofit organization needs to ensure your message stands out and appeals to their interests. Provide consistent, relevant content and build a relationship with their contacts before asking for a commitment.

Stay authentic. Trust and transparency are increasingly important for all donors. Especially younger generations who have grown up questioning the media and messages presented to them. Be direct and transparent about your mission and how you use donations. Incorporate peer testimonials wherever possible to add to the trustworthiness of your message.

Leverage social media. With the rise in popularity of peer-to-peer campaigns and social fundraising, more and more donors want to raise money on behalf of causes that matter to them. These supporters have much power to spread the word about your campaign because they can leverage social proof. By sharing their connection to your cause, they have the power to draw in their own network of friends and family to give. Equip these digital supporters with the right tools to share your message. 

Promote involvement, not just awareness. More and more donors today are interested in having an active, not just financial, involvement with the causes they support. They view themselves as collaborators, not hands-off donors. Provide opportunities for your supporters to give and volunteer, advocate, attend events, and otherwise get involved with your purpose. 

Remember those communications principles from earlier? Be authentic, be relevant, and be present. Keep those three tenets at the heart of your engagement strategy to match your messaging to what your donors care about.

Ready to Get Started?

    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas