The Demographics of Donor Potential

As a nonprofit/fundraising geek, when I receive solicitations from my alma mater (or really any organization), I look at them with a keen eye. I examine “where is the ask?” “how much did this fancy thing cost?” and “does it feel like they are talking to me?”.

Sometimes the answer to that last question is yes, and other times no.

As the cost of college increases and young alumni like me are left with heaping mounds of debt, the solicitations that feel most like they are correctly targeted to me are the modest ones.  I can relate to making a $20.07 contribution (I graduated in 2007 so this is a nifty, nostalgic ask I see often) but not the $20 million contribution or frankly, not even the $20,000 contribution, that I see from alumni who graduated in the 1960s and 1970s. That feels more foreign than any faraway land.

My personal experience aligns darn near perfectly with results from the recent Donor Perspectives report. It says “on average, US donors over the age of 65 gave more than three times the amount donated by those ages 18-24 and nearly twice as much as donors ages 25-34.” In short, correct, my young demographic of 25-34 can’t quite yet give what our parents can.

Donor Perspectives Graph

However, the good news, for fundraisers at least, is we aren’t getting any younger. Alas, I will not be 25-34 forever, no matter how many super foods I eat.

My takeaways are these

  • As you craft your solicitations and segment your audience, keep in mind the correlation between age and ability. Ask your young donors, like me, for gifts on the lower end of the spectrum as a way to start our relationship.
  • Remember while the young donor’s “this year potential” may be low but our lifetime potential is great. Hopefully in 20 years, we’ll have the ability to make a major gift and your organization, which has given an incredible philanthropic experience for years, will be the benefactor.