Shawn Reed, Executive Vice President  ●  3/18/2019

Fundraisers, Stop Asking, “How Can I Get Younger Donors?” Here’s Why.



Many of us in fundraising have been asked, ad nauseam, about how we are going to obtain younger donors, as if it’s some kind of parlor trick.

It comes up in nearly every client meeting and presentation we have, but I wonder if that’s the right question to ask.  There is almost an irrational fear of the future, and a panic around our seemingly cavalier effort to get millennials away from social media and video games, and into some kind of meaningful philanthropic relationship.  Do we truly believe our current donors are dying at such a rapid pace that we’ll be left depending on 25-year-olds?  Or do we just simply feel worried about what we don’t know?

There is much research on the subject.  But it’s important to first remember that fundraising is a long game.  We must see it that way, despite the year-over-year pressure that we all feel from our bosses.  Today’s decisions don’t just impact today, but many years from today.  Or at least they can. 

Josh McQueen sheds some much-needed light on generational giving, and presents fact-based analysis on what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what is going to happen in the future.  For context, here’s a reminder of the generations as they are best presented.

Current Age 18-34 35-54 55-74 75+
Annual Giving $51 Billion $90 Billion $107 Billion $57 Billion


In light of this generational overview, ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • How do you define younger donors?
  • Which generation do you believe is writing the most estate plans right now? (M, X, B, S)
  • Which generation do you believe gives the most money per year to charities?
  • Why do people give as they get older?
  • Why do people choose certain charities over others?


Now check out Josh McQueen’s video, “Changes in Giving and Volunteer Work for Nonprofits.”  Once you’ve finished, ask yourself these questions:

  • Were there any facts that surprised you?
  • How can The Salvation Army better engage each generation?
  • How would you answer a donor if they asked, “Why should I give to The Salvation Army over the other organizations that are asking?”
  • How can rethinking volunteerism solve two of The Salvation Army’s current challenges?
  • How can the key takeaways presented impact your specific planning?


I’ve watched this video dozens of times, and I often pick up a new tip that informs my fundraising work with The Salvation Army.  Here are my 4 Key Observations from “Changes in Giving and Volunteer Work for Nonprofits”:

  1. 80 percent of estates now being written are from Generation X.  Which makes me wonder what we’re doing about that in our Planned Giving departments, which have (generally speaking) been focused on people who are in their 60s and 70s.
  2. Volunteers give twice as much as non-volunteers.  But we often remain stuck in both our approach to volunteers and in the very databases that they’re contained.
  3. Channel is secondary to message and offer.  We must engage in all media, but we also need to make sure our messages and offers are aligned.
  4. Speaking of offer, there was this line about why the next generations will give … “If you treated them right.”  Are we so concerned with building offers around donations that we forget that, maybe, there are opportunities when we can offer our assistance to specific generations in specific ways?

If we want the next generations of Americans to matter to The Salvation Army, then The Salvation Army needs to matter to them. Yes, the silent generation is becoming even more silent as they pass, but boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials are already filling their shoes.  They will bring more passion, more wealth, and more capacity to accelerate the trajectory of giving, if we can truly engage them where they are — with an authentic passion of our own.


What are you doing to engage different generations?  We’d love to feature your story on a future The Ringer article to help our Salvation Army colleagues engage with supporters of all ages.  Email us today!


Get More Insights Into:


Read The Latest Posts

The Ringer wordmark

Our blog shares tips and insight specially tailored for our friends at The Salvation Army. Subscribe to have Salvation Army fundraising news delivered to your inbox.

Get straightforward thoughts and insights every month.