Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Generational Myths and other Fundraising Untruths

On this episode of fundraising Mythbusters, we're going to tackle some commonly held falsehoods. Buckle up for the ride folks and be ready for some of your commonly held beliefs to be challenged.

Myth 1: Older donors aren't tech savvy: this is probably the myth I am most presented with on a daily basis as a challenge to my new ideas regarding technology. It's simply not true. The baby boomer generation has now turned into a new catch phrase called the "Silver Surfers" they are retired and have dispensable time and income, they want badly to keep up with the younger folks and technology is the great equalizer. My parents, both part of this generation have separate laptops, a smart phone, and  pay all of their bills online. They aren't the exception, they're the norm. The #1 growing group on social media is women 55plus, and the majority of new users for Skype is older gentlemen (65plus). Online shopping has boomed and there is no excuse why digital media and your use of it shouldn't accommodate these folks. That doesn't mean that hand written notes should fall by the wayside, they are still tops, but don't eliminate digital ideas or let someone deter you because the "older" folks don't "do" technology.

Myth 2: Generation X aren't good givers and aren't engaged. You know, the classes of the 80s and 90s that you struggle with? Those in their late 30s or 40s? They're out there and they're engaged, they're just BUSY and you aren't connecting with them yet in a meaningful manner. My brother is one of those people, and I have to say that of his three alma maters only one does it somewhat well. The others have not connected... Yet. This generation is building their careers and families and their time is short and valuable. Have folks on Wall Street? Don't call them once the bell has rung, you're costing them money. Send them a linked in email or find another way to reach out, they will appreciate your awareness. Events don't work for these folks unless there's something in it for them, adapt your style to fit them.

Myth 3: Recent college graduates, or the millennial generation don't care and don't respond. Not true. This generation understands philanthropy well, they jut don't understand old school development operations well. You're not going to appeal to them with a phonathon, this is the generation of Toms shoes and the RED campaign, where products include philanthropy and their time is part of their philanthropy. How do we convert them from giving their time to their money? We explain it to them, show the impact of the dollar, have peers tell the story and allow them to have hands on experiences that make a difference. This generation has been wired since they were born, but unplugging them and having face to face time is vital to your success with this group. Show them the impact of a hand written note, and take the time to teach them how to write them, they probably were never taught. Trying to reach them? Send them a text, reach out through social media, remember, with these folks email is waning. Send them a mobile call to action or involve them in a blitz fundraising campaign. And do me a favor, stop calling them young alumni, not all of them were not 21 when they graduated. Call them recent graduates or some other name, stop reminding them they're young, you don't remind your older donors they're old all the time do you?

Myth 4: If a new effort fails, throw it out and pretend it never happened. Learn from it, celebrate your failure and instead of completely ridding yourself of the memory try to find tweaks to help manage your challenges. Every problem has a solution, one that takes an excellent idea and impeccable implementation, which one of these was your downfall? These are the things that keep me up at night, filled with delight of solving, I love a challenge. What caused the unexpected success? What led to the downfall? What could we have done better? Can I build a better implementation plan to make it smoother, better, easier, faster? Is there technology that can match my weaknesses? These are the things we have to think about, instead of just dismissing it as a waste of time.

Myth 5: Technology is expensive and prohibitive. As technology evolves, the cost begins to plummet. Remember the $600 VCRs? The first bag phones? Exactly. Most technology is free or cheap to implement and is a relatively short time commitment to learn. Technophobe? No worries, find someone who is a whiz and have them help you. When I first started speaking, I hated PowerPoint so I had my work study students help me build my presentations, now I can crank out a great slide deck in under 15 minutes. I spend a great deal of time in Excel but for the life of me can't make it print pretty for meetings all on one page with headings and a readable font. No worries, I have a friend on staff that makes me look great. It takes her less than ten minutes to do what it would take me two hours and lots of paper to do. The trick is finding a solution around your barriers with technology. Don't have the budget to do thank you videos? Do what I'm doing and have a student video contest and wham! Multiple great videos and student education about philanthropy.

What are some fundraising myths you would like debunked? Is there a challenge you face that you need help with? I'm here to help. I look forward to your responses and input. Next month out webinar will focus on donor relations for two special populations, planned giving donors and corporate and foundation donors, I hope you'll join me. For more information, click here


  1. " My brother is one of those people, and I have to say that of his three alma maters only one does it somewhat well. The others have not connected... Yet."

    What is it about the one alma mater's efforts that are done well?

  2. THey involve him in networking opportunities that are time and location convenient, they ask him to give lectures on campus and involve him in ways that are more than surface or material.