The Heart and Head: Building Your Case for all Generations

In a study published by Blackbaud recently, the authors speak of the needs of most generations of givers.  Much has been written about millennials, Generation X and Y and Baby Boomers for the last ten to fifteen years beginning with the great intergenerational wealth transfer to the demands of each generation of donors on nonprofits.  This study is just the latest to point out the changing donor landscape facing most nonprofits.  As nonprofit’s struggle to find their place in the landscape, and more importantly a place in their prospects individual philanthropy a few best practices rise to the surface.  While the Baby Boomers will lead the way for at least the next ten years or so as the most generous generation of donors, it is equally clear that time must be spent cultivating and growing the Generation X, Y and millennial donors.  However, the needs of each of the donor generations is somewhat different.  In building your case for support and your operational procedures, nonprofits need to focus on both the head and heart.  For some generations the heart statements of “the good” your nonprofit does will be enough to move donors to give.  However, increasingly so, younger generations are looking for much more specific proof that the charitable investments they make are having the anticipated impact.  They are looking for data that shows the impact their gift has made and clear communication.  As you move forward as a nonprofit, you need to establish a case for support that appeals to the head and heart.  Here are a few steps to consider

1) Define, using emotional language, the impact (or change) your nonprofit provides.  Be concise, but use stories to illustrate your impact.

2) Show donors in a clear way that their gift is linked to your impact. (ie.  Your gift of $250 enabled us to provide 2 hours of occupational therapy to a fifth grader who has learned to…)

3) Communicate in a clear and transparent way the results of your operations and how money was used including projects announced and how they were funded.  Annual Reports, mid-year business reports quarterly update letters all are examples of devices you can use to keep donors informed.

4) Develop your own sense of accountability and transparency.  Involve your fundraisers in goal-setting with a clear sense of direction.  Use these goals to drive results and achieve goals.

By developing a clear culture of “head and heart” in your organization you will not only be in a better position to respond to your donors and their needs, but you will also be building a more effective organization.


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