Photo credit Lucidio Studio on flickr

You know the old saying “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I want you to be mindful of that bit of homespun wisdom as you make plans for your fundraising program.

Here’s what I see us doing…

We all seem to be in a panic. Because of declining direct mail acquisition and renewal rates, we’re pressed to replace that nice, steady money. We know that this decline has a lot to do with age. Direct mail donors are older (a good 80% of them are aged 65 or more). They’re retiring (spending less money) and some are dying (spending no money).

So what do we intuitively want to do? Why, find some young donors of course!

And to compound this drive, our non-fundraising bosses and board members want us to rush there in a hurry.  How often do you think someone says this at a board meeting when money is the subject? “My daughter and her friends are doing all this Twitter and Facebook stuff on their phones. How much of that are WE doing?”

The instinct is natural – and no one should be blamed for thinking this way. There’s just one thing – the numbers don’t back it up.

Let’s look at a few sobering truths about donors, fundraisers and philanthropy:

  • The Civic Generational cohort (born before 1946) makes up about one-fifth of the population.
  • That same Generation gives one-third of all the charitable dollars in Canada.
  • This is the ONLY Generation that punches above its weight when it comes to giving to charity.
  • Fundraisers have always known that the real money starts to come from donors somewhere after their 50th birthday. It’s a life stage thing – kids grown, mortgage paid off, but income still high.

Based on our own Good Works polling, charitable revenue from Canada’s Civic Generation will actually GROW over the next decade or so. This growth will come as a result in the booming revenue generated by these donors in the form of charitable bequests. In fact, we predict that this generation will start giving more to charity in bequests than through the mail in just two or three years.

So, should you have a social media strategy? No reason not to.

Should you update your website and include YouTube? Absolutely!

Should you try to build a constituency that is more generationally mixed? No reason not to.

Just don’t throw those grey haired babies out with the bathwater just yet. There’s still a LOT of money to be made!