Don't you wish donors could just tell us exactly how to reach them and motivate them to give? What they take seriously and what they ignore? What images touch their hearts? What offers quicken their compassion? What colors make them feel like saying yes?
Then we'd just do those things and get astounding response all the time.
Thing is, donors can't do that. Even if they want to. They have no access to that information. They can have opinions about those things, but those opinions have no connection with reality. If you've ever experienced donor focus groups, you've seen this in action. They hate and utterly reject the stuff that works in real life. They loooooove speculative shiny new stuff that never works.
That's a fact of life in fundraising, or any kind of marketing. Everyone's opinions of what they'd respond to have no connection to what they really respond to.
So it's something like hilarious when The Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes a piece titled 5 Things Charities Do That Turn Off Young Donors Like Me, where the author not only tells us what she would respond to, but what an entire generation of people will respond to.
You cannot take seriously the pontifications of a self-appointed Spokesperson of a Generation. It's not trustworthy or even meaningful information. It can't be.
As always in cases like this, it covers a spectrum between obvious Fundraising 101 truisms like "have an offer" and over-the-top howlers like "Don't ask for $25; ask for $1,000." (I'm not making that up!)
I've written elsewhere about millennial fundraising. It is at best an uncertain enterprise. But if you want to know how raise money from millennials, there's only one way to learn: Raise money from millennials, and discover what does and doesn't work. Test things. Refine your tests.
Then you'll know what really works. And I can guarantee that won't be what they (or their Spokesperson) tell you.
I don't know exactly what you'll uncover, but I can tell you this:
- It will surprise you. Donors always do.
- It will probably disappoint you -- you'll find they aren't paying as much attention as you thought they were.
- You'll find that millennial donors aren't a monolithic group with one set of tastes, habits, and expectations. No generation is. What works for someone else may or may not work for you.