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Do you know how old your donors are?

According to a recent study by Blackbaud, the average age of a donor is 65 years old. What makes this statistic even more interesting is the average age has increased from 62 to 65 over the last five years. When we read studies like this, it emphasizes that many organizations are not doing enough to reach the younger generations of donors.

Historically, age has been a pretty good predictor of charitable giving. Some of that comes with disposable income and some comes from life experiences and exposure to programs and organizations that motivate someone to donate.

So how do we start opening the charitable door to people at younger ages?

I remember a conversation with a then mid-30-something board member of a large cultural organization. She had just finished her term as the chair of the young professionals society and the organization's leadership really wanted her to consider joining the governing board. I was tasked with making the ask and also discussing the $5,000 annual fund board commitment that came with board service. I danced around the topic for a good 10 minutes, saying things like “you aren’t expected to make that sizable donation in your first year” and “there are always payment arrangements.”

Finally, she looked at me and said, “John, stop. Why is it that you don’t think I can make a $5,000 contribution simply because of my age? I have a successful career, we don’t have kids yet, and I love the institution. Don’t say no for me - give me the chance to say yes.”

As it turns out, she became not only a board member, but later a key member of the executive committee and a strong leader for the organization and community. And her giving escalated each year.

The lesson for me is not to count out young professionals in their 30s and 40s. With the right stewardship and cultivation, they have great capacity to make significant annual fund contributions and even capital gifts. And if there is a period where they need to pull back because of children or family priorities, keep them close and steward them as though they are still writing bigger checks. Their giving will rebound and they will be more engaged than ever.

As for the younger generations of donors who aren’t as close to us yet, think about your stewardship strategy. Create a journey for them. Make it fun, make it enlightening, and make it something that they want to experience each time you communicate with them. Give them a chance to hit the “donate now” button on your e-newsletter. If you are sending them an electronic appeal, make sure you personalize it. Technology has evolved so much that we expect emails to look like they came directly from you.

Nonprofits are competing with so many other companies and organizations for the donor’s attention. Make sure that every message you send has something to grab them and bring them into the story. In a previous post, we talked about the impact of video in messaging and how it increases engagement. Being thoughtful and intentional about every message that you send will help ensure more people open your emails and stop for a few extra seconds on your social media posts - hopefully leading to more and more frequent gifts.

Cape Fletcher Associates

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