For a lot of years, a lot of non-profit organizations—who historically use a lot of direct mail—have been troubled by the fact that their constituents are aging. Many have been told by consultants that they need to step up their efforts to recruit “new blood” to their cause.
There is, of course, some pretty sound logic to that. If your donor base gets progressively older—and eventually dies—you have to have other donors waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.
Sometimes, however, it’s easy to overlook some of the benefits of a more mature audience when it comes to direct mail fundraising. And while you should keep an eye on the future and work to bring in new (and younger) donors, consider some of the following characteristics of a mature constituency before you abandon your faithful donors too quickly.
- More discretionary income for gifting: Younger donors have families to plan for, houses to pay off, and other living expenses that chew up financial resources. On top of that, income levels have dropped. Mature donors often have more discretionary income. They may or may not have more money—but they are often more free to choose how they will use what they have.
- Loyal: Older donors have more of a history with your organization. When they have to make a decision about where to give, they are more likely to choose an organization they’ve known. And even new donors (who are more mature) tend to stay with an organization once they start.
- Time to read: We constantly hear about how people don’t have time to read material that’s sent to them. Donors who are in their retirement years have the time to read what you send them—and to respond.
- Generational behavior shifts: Mature audiences tend to support organizations financially. It’s the model they grew up with. They invest their money. There is a tendency for younger audiences to be hands-on. They invest their time and sweat. (And by the way, that’s something to bear in mind as you consider recruiting younger audiences. Solicit their involvement now and you may end up winning their financial support later.)
Bear in mind that it’s not an “either/or” situation for non-profits. You want to respect and acknowledge both groups of individuals. But before you write off your “older” donors, keep these character traits in mind.
We’d love to hear if this matches your experience. Please leave us a note in the comments section telling us what your experience with both younger and more mature donors is like.