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First Look At Gen Z

First Look At Gen Z

What Does Your Future Member or Donor Look Like? An Early Look At Generation Z

Successful membership and donor-supported organizations usually depend on a variety of supporters. Various generations, education levels, and even political persuasions usually are found within an association’s membership, and may even find common ground on many causes–think Red Cross or United Way.

With this in mind, it’s never too early to pay attention to what the future holds. New research from the Pew Research Center offers an early, and very detailed look at so-called Generation Z.

For starters, who is in Generation Z, or Gen Z? Pew defines them as people born from 1997 onward. With the oldest turning 22 this year, there are few Gen Zers that are making donations or joining membership organizations. That said, there are plenty of them who are through high school and even college, or have started professional careers. They are politically engaged and are paying attention to social issues.

Grassroot Communication | Gen Z

In short, they matter.
What do they think?

In short, Gen Z leans more progressive politically, even among those that identify as Republicans. They believe government should do more to help people, not less–again, even among those that identify themselves as being more conservative.

Gen Zers also believe that increased racial and ethnic diversity is good for the U.S. overall, with about six in 10 holding this viewpoint. This ratio is about even with Millennials (born 1981-1996), but higher than Generation X (1965-1980) and previous generations.

The current generation is also the most likely to agree that same-sex marriage and inter-racial marriage are positives for society. Millennials are a close second, and then the disapproval gap grows starting with Generation X.

Members of Gen Z are also the most open-minded on gender identification. One out of three Gen Zers surveyed by Pew say they know at least one person who identifies using a gender-neutral pronoun. Six in 10 Gen Zers believe online forms or other methods of recording personal information should have gender-related options beyond “man” and “woman.”

The Pew survey includes more information and is worth examining.

The primary takeaways? Gen Zers are, in general, very similar to Millennials–no surprise, considering they are back-to-back generations. But the new generation is broadening its views in several key areas–notably politics, where they appear to be more progressive than their predecessors (again, even among those that identify themselves as conservative), and they are clearly engaged on the expanding discussion related to gender identification.

Keeping an eye on your future donors and members is always a smart move. It may be too early to make wholesale changes based on Gen Z’s tendencies, but it’s never too early to be engaged with your future stakeholders.

 

Men vs Women Donors

Why Women Donors Are Likely More Valuable

If you’ve detected a trend in the last few years that shows women becoming more politically engaged, you’re not imagining things.

The 2018 election cycle saw new records for the number of women candidates for governor as well as both the House of Representatives and the Senate. And they’re not just running–they’re winning. The current crop of House members includes a record number of women “by a wide margin,” as Time magazine noted.

This activism goes well beyond political office–it extends to donor patterns as well. An analysis by Nonprofit Quarterly found that women’s political engagement has surged in the last two years, including donations. This has major implications for charities that provide basic human needs.

Research by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found a direct link between income levels and how donors spend on charitable giving. No surprise there. What may be surprising is the respective donation patterns of men vs. women. As the Nonprofit Times explains, men are more likely to give to organization-focused charities–think schools and societies, religious organizations, or youth-focused endeavors. However, “When the woman’s income increases, the couple is more likely to give — and give a larger amount — to charities that provide basic human needs, such as the Salvation Army, American Red Cross or a homeless shelter.”

Women also are more likely to give from their heart, meaning they are more likely to be motivated by current events or major trend shifts, such as an election result.

The research backing this was done in 2015–before the recent overall surge in women’s activism. Combining the established tendencies with the current political environment, and it’s not a stretch to say that women are having greater influence than ever over charitable giving and overall political activism.

New research from the Lilly School concludes that adult daughters are more likely to be influenced by the charitable giving of their parents than adult sons. While this underscores the idea that women have increasing influence, it also highlights a general need to bridge the gap between parents and sons.

“If giving is to increase to continue to address the pressing challenges of today’s society, then society in turn must find ways to ensure that these values are passed on to both sons and daughters,” the report says.

As a nonprofit executive who relies on donors to drive your organization, what should your takeaways be?

First, understand that men and women are different, even if all other demographics–income, place of residence, education, etc.–are exactly the same.

Also recognize that while both genders show tendencies to form established donation patters based on their experiences and values, women are more likely to shift theirs and get more involved based on current events.

You should always tailor your campaigns so they appeal to subsets of donors based on income, location, age, etc.
If you’re not already targeting men and women differently, too, consider doing so.

Identifying Your Donors: Where To Start?

You know that identifying your donors is important. But do you know where to start?

Easy: With your own lists, and some basic categories that are meaningful to your organization or fundraising in general.

Your data may be well-organized, or you may have a bunch of lists that identify some basics, such as who donated during your last push, which contacts have opened your email communications, and so on. Regardless of the state of your data, this is where you start  your donor-identification process.

Among the most important things you should be tracking and segmenting on: when your donors (or prospects) give. Are they annual donors? Lapsed donors? Prospects? Figuring out the frequency of when your audience gives will help you tailor messages that fit. A lapsed donor will need a different sort of coaxing than a prospect, and a regular supporter should be treated altogether differently.

Another key attribute: the cause that convinced them to donate their money. If you don’t have different causes, this probably won’t apply to your organization. But if you have different reasons for your pushes–an annual building fund for facilities vs. a targeted campaign to help provide scholarships to young people, for instance–you should be able to tell who gave to what cause. This information can help you cut down on unwanted communication to donors that favor one cause over others. It could help you uncover willing donors by communicating to them the value of supporting other causes, too.

Data Audit and Action Plan

Once you understand the categories of donors and potential donors you have, and their giving patters, it’s time to start determining what motivates them to give. This isn’t easy–trying to understand what triggers a person’s desire to support a cause is guesswork at best (unless you’re conducting a survey, which is a great way to gain periodic insight). But you can begin to understand what triggers the give by paying attention to how your audience interacts with your messaging.

Start with the obvious–tracking how donations come in. People sending in money in a reply-to envelope were clearly moved by that campaign’s message. Electronic communication, especially emails, provides important insight as well. Track who is reading your messaging and cross-reference their donation patterns.

Perhaps you’ll learn that donor frequency does not correlate with the amount of interaction a donor or potential donor has with your messaging (though this would be unusual). What you are more likely to find is that a subset of your infrequent donors is in fact reading your messaging, liking your Facebook posts, etc., but they are not quite motivated enough to give. This type of insight gives you a very specific target of engaged, compassionate candidates that merit a very specific campaign.

The same types of patterns can help glean what moves your prospects from potential donors to first-time donors. Are you getting more via direct mail vs. online? What about at specific times of year?

The science of donor identity is both effective and can be very complex. But it does not have to start out that way. Understanding the basics of your current prospects will give you ideas on how to begin targeting your messages and your tactics. This is an ideal way to start as you’re determining how you will move into more sophisticated categories.

Helping clients build donor-identity datasets is one of our specialties.

If you are looking for ways to jump-start your donor-identification process, or take it to a higher level, we’d be happy to talk to you!

Donor Identity: A Deeper Dive

Every experienced fundraiser understands the need to segment donors, identify them, and adjust campaigns to appeal to them. But a lot of fundraisers are not taking this deep enough–and it is costing them money via unproductive efforts and lost donations.

Donors do not have simply one identity. They have many, and most can be easily explained in a few words: things like conservative, union member, active church member, and football fan. They have work-related identities, and social identities. And many of them have nothing to do with each other, or why they may donate to your cause. Then there are identities created by life circumstance: cancer survivor, dementia patient care-giver, parent of suicidal teen.

Donor Identiy

An insightful article by The Donor Voice’s Kevin Schulman explains the importance to know which identities you are targeting, and your message should be radically altered to suit. For instance, life-circumstance identities usually fall into two general categories: someone who had or has the ailment, or someone caring for another that does. These can generally be considered “direct connection” identities.

Appealing to these direct-connection identities requires a very different approach. These people don’t need to be emotionally drawn in by a well-written story detailing someone with their same problem, and then explaining how your organization helps them. They understand the emotional side already–they live it. What they are about are the services you provide for people like them.

As Schulman explains, appeals like these should skip the emotional set-up and hit hard on the array of services–from seminars to hotlines to guide books. Whatever it is you do to help your target audience–this is what will motivate these people to donate.

Now, let’s take this a step further. Your campaign should not be limited to these so-called “direct connection” prospects. There are plenty of other identities out there who may be swayed to support your cause. The campaigns for these people will need a different, and perhaps more traditional, approach. Share stories of people you’ve helped, and highlight some of the services that donations support.

The difference is subtle, but leads to profound differences in how the campaigns are set up.

Segmenting your donor lists by identity is a must. Taking the next steps and really understanding what those identities want to hear from you is crucial to maximizing donor response, and ultimately, retention.

Want a good donor experience and better retention? Start with understanding donor identity.

Putting Donor Identity into Practice

In our last issue of Donor Centric, we gave an introduction to the concept of donor identity and the role that it plays in not only donors’ decisions to give in the first place, but also in their motivation for giving.

If your organization is to maximize its ability to attract, reach, and resonate with donors, you’re going to need to narrow your focus and make donor identity a point of emphasis.
But how do you achieve that?

Here are two things your organization can start doing today, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.

1. Collect Data
The most obvious first step is learning about your donors! You can achieve this in a few different ways. First, check out your social media demographics. If you have a decent following on any social media platforms, use your platform’s analytics tool to start viewing what data is available on your followers. You might find that your followers, and the people who gravitate toward your organization, are much different than you had initially thought!

Next, issue a survey to your email list. If you don’t already have an email list – whether it’s through a newsletter subscription or otherwise – now is as good a time as ever to start putting this together. Send a survey out to those on your list, asking people to provide a little information about themselves. This might be in the form of a short questionnaire, a poll, or another method. You don’t need to pry into someone’s personal life for this to be effective. Learning about someone’s occupation, the country or state where they reside, and a few of their interests and passions can provide your organization with a wealth of insight.

Finally, just ask. Send an email to current donors only, and ask specifically why they decided to give to your organization. This will help you identify your organization’s greatest pull factors so that you can prioritize them when it comes time to make your next appeal to new prospects or lapsed donors.

 

Grassroot Communication | Donor Identiy

2. Diversify Your Appeal Strategy
Now that know a little more about your different donors, it’s time to start putting this information to use. But remember – the degree to which you will be able to execute this is dependent on your organization’s resources, as well as your willingness to do so. The vague blanket emails you might send to thousands of people at a time? It’s time to throw them out. It’s time to start diversifying, and you can achieve this in two different ways.

The first option is to use the data you have collected to segment your target audience into different streams. One group might consist of activists who are passionate and vocal about human rights or equality, for example. A second group might consist of people who have recently donated to a nonprofit. A third group might consist of people who are active volunteers at a shelter. Wherever it makes sense for your nonprofit to compartmentalize and start different appeals, do so! Now use this information to tailor each appeal to its specific demographic.

Another option is to make your next email or letter more inclusive. Perhaps you don’t have the resources to create appeals for 10 or 15 different groups at a time. But you can certainly make your appeal relevant to more people. We all can! For example, if your nonprofit provides shelter for animals, your letter needs to appeal to the different types of people you’re looking to convert into donors. For the passionate animal lover, you might want to include a heartwarming story of an animal that your shelter was able to save. For the person looking to adopt a pet, you might want to mention that you are housing animals that are in need of permanent homes.

Can you see why investing in donor identity is so important? If you don’t understand your donors and what motivates them to give, your appeal is going to be vague, dull, and ineffective. The result? You’re only going to have but a fraction of the impact that your nonprofit could have otherwise . . . Start learning about your donors and diversifying your appeal strategy today, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching and converting more prospects into donors.

The first step is finding out each donor’s identity and reason for giving. So how can we do that? Stay tuned for Grassroot Communications’ Donor Centric newsletter Here’s a clue: we can guess, or we can ask. We will discuss both in upcoming articles.

Why Direct Mail…?

Have you ever heard of “advertising wear-out?” It’s the term that researchers use to describe the decreased response to ads that consumers exhibit after repeated exposure to that same ad. Advertising experts have known about it for decades.

In the 1980s, researcher Margaret Henderson Blair noted that “the overall persuasiveness of an ad declines exponentially,” and even though she was referring to television, the same is true regarding online ads, a recent New York Times article says.

In fact, two business school professors, Michael Braun (Southern Methodist University) and Wendy W. Moe (University of Maryland) found that the effectiveness of an online ad falls by more than half every single time it is viewed by a potential customer, and that includes donors.

Blasting your donors with cheap online solicitations might be easy, but it gets old quick.

A well-thought-out, well-written appeal from the heart has more staying power. It’s the reason why targeted direct mail continues to haul in the lion’s share of fundraising dollars from small and mid-level donors.

So don’t fall into the trap of going online just because everyone else is—including your audience.

Yes, they may be online, but they are there in real life, too.

Consider taking a fresh look your direct mail strategy.

We’d be happy to review it with you, perhaps tweak the messaging, and ensure it is helping you keep your organization on the path to growth and profitability. And that means you can focus on your core mission.

See full article: “What History Says About the Future of Fake News” by Austan Goolsbee –NY Times, 5/27/18

How to Generate Interest in Your Organizations Cause?

If you think about it, the true challenge for the activist – whether the CEO of a major non-profit or the founder of a grassroots political movement– is to relate the necessity of the core cause to everyday citizens who have no personal experience or connection with that cause.

How difficult it would be for Cancer Research Institute to raise the astronomical funds they raise if the disease did not affect so many of us and our loved ones – would it even be possible?

After all, people have their own priorities like paying bills, dealing with health issues, taking care of children… etc. So why should they be interested in your org’s cause? Thus, the hallmark of a great outreach campaign is the ability to connect with your audience completely by penetrating the layers of apathy, of cynicism and nudging your prospective supporters to embrace the necessity of your org’s mission while momentarily forgetting about their own workaday concerns. The only question is how?

Part of the answer is that it depends on who exactly is on the other end of your communication. Research suggests that smaller donors prefer personal stories of the very real people benefited by your org’s work while larger donors, who tend to be more organized in their giving, tend to view gift giving as an investment.

In the latter case, numbers may prove more effective than words.

However, even within these two brackets, there is sufficient scope for customization. Should the personal anecdotes feature innocent children as subjects? Alternatively, do some small donors relate better to stories featuring the point of view of working-class parents?

In addition, when it comes to quantifying impact assessment for our large donors, should we discuss the immediate economic value to the local community? Alternatively, should we analyze the org’s results in a more global context?

For instance, we might report that contributions to your educational non-profit focused on local public school reform is expected to increase the value of real estate in nearby districts starting in 10 years.

The next generation of non-profit communication involves detailing not only how a donor fits into the life of the org, but also how the org fits into the life of the donor. It is an art as much as a science – augmented by both social media analytics and one’s own social experiences.

Most importantly, it is a fluid and dynamic process that requires both creativity and a penchant for experimenting. When executed properly, however, the payoff can be extraordinary.

The Proven Formula for Donor Newsletters

by Tom Ahern, of Ahern Donor Communications — www.aherncomm.com

In the 1990s, a Seattle fundraising shop called the Domain Group took the garden-variety donor newsletter, stripped it down to its components, and began testing … to see if they could come up with something better. Sort of like rebuilding a hot rod.

Domain eventually developed a formula that made a donor newsletter HIGHLY worth doing: some Domain clients began raking in more gifts through their newsletters than through their direct mail appeals.
Domain had its hot rod. Think about that a moment. Read more ›

Writer’s Tip – Talk about Donors!

Working at an organization for a while is a great way to become both incredibly passionate and deeply informed about its mission. But one thing that such longevity often brings is a loss of perspective about what attracts members or donors to your organization in the first place. You look at all of the great work that you do and ask yourself, isn’t it obvious why we’re worth supporting?
Often, this leads leaders in the non- profit sector to adopt an outreach strategy designed to fill the so-called knowledge gap. They craft appeals that tell donors and would-be patrons about all of the great things the organization has ever done. This way, the organization’s day-to-day efforts can be appreciated by everyone—not just those who are intimately involved.
Problem solved, right?
Not so fast.
As a nonprofit leader, you may think the best way to sell your organization to prospective donors is by talking about all the great things you do. But here’s the thing: most donors find that stuff extremely boring.
Guess what donors don’t find boring? Themselves and the things they care about. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many appeal letters focus too much on what the organization has accomplished, and not enough on why donors and prospects should care.
Donor-centric fundraising isn’t just about the mission—it’s about your audience, too.
So how do you write a donor-centric appeal letter that will knock their socks off? That’s where we come in.
Stick around and we will show you how it’s done.

A meaningful appeal letter; speaking to the national mood.

Writing a meaningful appeal letter is much more than relaying your organizations goals to your donors (though this is very important as well).
Effective appeals – the ones that really resonate and capture hearts and minds – possess a certain cultural element, a snapshot of the current national mood. The national mood might be affected by significant events, whether it’s a natural disaster or a tragic mass shooting, heavily influenced by mainstream media. If the United States of America were a single person, the national mood would embody a cluster of emotions and thoughts that she is experiencing right at this moment.

It’s critical to take stock in the national mood because it influences how all citizens feel, who they vote for, and which organizations they give to. However, it’s not always clear how various donor segments of your organization will respond to different events. As a leader of advocacy, it’s up to you to determine what your donor is dwelling on. For example, are they affected by the results of Hurricane Harvey? Is the Texas church shooting fresh in their minds? What about the current wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations made by women against powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere?

Tapping into the sentiments generated by the constant stream of newsworthy events is a powerful way to channel your supporters’ outrage into action. If it’s convincing your constituents to fill out a check or ballot, your goal is to engineer concrete action by coopting current events.

So, for your next appeal or fundraising letter, tell a story that incorporates the headlines that move your donors to action.

Tell your organization’s story the right way, and don’t be afraid to borrow from the headline.

Need ideas for your organization’s next fundraising or advocacy campaign? Ask us!