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3 fundraising lessons from Generation Z

piggy bank

I have a son (age 11) and a daughter (age 12), and every week my wife and I give them an allowance. We make them split their allowance into three buckets: savings, spending and charity. Savings they get back when they are 18, spending can be used as they desire and charity gets donated to the nonprofit of their choice. My kids normally save up their charity dollars all year and make an end-of-the-year gift. Their gifts, and our experience in making those gifts online in late 2016, inspired me to write this blog article. Here are three lessons all nonprofits can learn from the youngest generation of givers:

1. Communicating impact matters

My son is a lover of elephants. Ever since he could speak, elephants have been his favorite animal and he consistently donates his allowance to their cause. This year I presented him with a few nonprofits who are working on combating the extinction of the elephant. His questions to me on his options were mainly about who’s having the most success fighting the poachers. He was asking about impact.

We worked through various articles on the subject, such as this one from Africa Geographic. We also visited the websites of each of the organizations to see how they approach the issue and the impact they are having.

My son decided to give his dollars to Wildlife Conservation Society. He felt they had the best chance of making an impact with his donation. They were noted favorably in the articles we found and their website backed up their impact with photos and information that moved him to give.

Lesson learned: Communicating the impact your nonprofit has made for its cause on your website and to the press will motivate donors to give.

Bonus tip from Dad: To cash in a donor convinced by your website to give, you’ll need a great donation process. I was impressed by the ease of online giving to WCS. They have a very simple donation process and they shared their impact during the process with simple statements and great photos (see the elephant below).

Wildlife Conversation Society donation page
Wildlife Conservation Society donation page

2. Your thank you email can solidify the relationship with a new donor

Immediately after placing our online gift to WCS, we received a thank you email. It is important that your nonprofit is sending these immediate email acknowledgements to donors, thanking them for their online gift. More importantly, you must be sending the right message in your thank you. In running 4aGoodCause, I’ve seen my share of email receipts. Most are heartfelt and written well, but it is rare that I’m very moved by one—probably because I have read so many.

The thank you letter from WCS was one of those that moved both myself and my son. The letter was simple and short, but it made us feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that we were making a difference. I love that it was formatted as a simple letter from a real person and was not overly transactional. It was meant to sincerely say thank you, not just to inform me that my credit card was just charged. I know my son and I will choose to give to WCS again.

This part of the message stuck out to me:

“The WCS message is simple: We stand for wildlife. And by we, I mean you, me, and the hundreds of thousands of others who are part of this community. Together, we're on the frontlines of the fight to save Earth's most magnificent animals and the habitats critical to their survival.”

Lesson learned: Take the extra time and effort to craft your thank you messages, because donor retention starts here. Write your emails from the heart and make the donor feel as if they are a warrior for your cause.

Bonus tip from Dad: Donor retention doesn’t stop here. Check our other articles on retaining donors.

3. Thank you gifts or giveaways can introduce you to new givers

My daughter is also an animal lover—the GA House Rabbit Society is her favorite charity, and has received many donations and volunteer hours from her. This past year, however, she went in a new direction. She decided to adopt two animals through the World Wildlife Fund, which she had previously adopted a narwhal from a few years ago. Her brother has also adopted elephants through their adoption program.

I left her alone with the WWF website, and she perused the species section for quite a while, studying the plight of each animal and deciding which one she wanted to help. It was a tough decision but she settled on the whale shark and red panda.

World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund adoption page

One of her motivations to give to WWF was the adoption kit she would receive. The narwhal plush toy she has from a previous adoption is one the favorite items in her room and gives her a sense of pride because she knows she helped that animal.

The adoption kits arrived quickly at our house and my daughter decided to share a part of them with her friends. The donations and kits from WWF quickly became a conversation piece that lead to a flurry of middle school text messaging and Facetime sessions, discussing their favorite animals and which ones would be the best to adopt. Her friends had never heard of WWF before, but have since pledged to give themselves.

Lesson learned: A well-done thank you gift and a great donation experience gives your donor something to share and talk about with friends. This introduction can lead to new donors.

Bonus tip from Dad: If your nonprofit gives away thank you gifts to donors, always include an option for donors to opt-out of that gift. WWF is very good about including that option, and we’ve chosen to go this route before. The gift is not always the right option for every donor, and they will appreciate that more money is going towards the cause if they choose to decline.

As I mentioned above, I have seen my fair share of nonprofit fundraising efforts and emails. If you are in need of some inspiration or updates to your own fundraising efforts, 4aGoodCause can help.

Image credit
Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Since founding 4aGoodCause in 1998, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves - building software that makes a difference in the world. For almost 20 years, Ronald and the 4aGoodCause online fundraising platform have helped raise millions of dollars for nonprofits from Maine to Hawaii. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @4aGC.

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