With the texts and tweets and the touchscreens and with those crazy(-cool) Google goggles and whatnot, a nonprofit would be daft to send those old-fashioned appeals by mail. The cost of printing and stamps, the hassle of upkeep of a database of address, the imposition of making potential donors find their checkbooks buried ever-farther into their desk drawers… who would bother?
But an extensive whitepaper from the folks at Convio makes it quite clear that not only is the traditional through-the-snail-mail appeal still a great way to solicit support for your charity, it is the hands-down winner over all media outreach. As the chart to the left reveals, outreach by mail achieves incredibly high response rates. That said − and unsurprisingly − the impact of mailers fades as one moves down the age groups, as Generations X and (especially) Y choose to respond to other media as well. What media will carry the donation message into the future?
The Convio report really focused on the generational aspects of giving, including distinguishing the donation and volunteering habits of Generations X and Y (the latter often called), who are too often lumped together in contrast to the Baby Boomers. The numbers on the impact of traditional mail show how the importance of this distinction: Figure 5 in the report shows that 38% of Gen Xers respond to mail solicitations, which puts them around the numbers put up by their parents and grandparents (Boomers respond some 36% and Matures (those born before 1944) respond a whopping 49% of the time).
Mail brings almost 1/2 of all donations – for now
Generation Y, on the other hand, responds to mail only a quarter of the time − a drop of over 10% from their parents. Generally, these Millennials do not have a great deal of money to give (yet) either, but when they do, they are drawn to websites and email appeals at about the same rates as their parents respond to traditional media.
But perhaps the trickiest part for the nonprofit or charity discussing how to draw economic support from the youngest generation is the fact that Millennials are not really turning to text messages or Twitter or Facebook to donate either. Those numbers are all below 10% (and for Boomers and Matures they are nonexistent). Which means even the hippest charities should not simply abandon email blasts and appropriate mailers. Nor should they expect consistent engagement from the periodic text/SMS campaign.
In fact, the most consistently high-performing medium among Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y is word-of-mouth. All three generations report responding to peer/colleague/friend-generated requests about 84% of the time (and Matures do so 76% of the time). Which suggests that social networks are helping spread the word about a charity’s good work, but those same networks might not be the best ways to solicit financial support…just yet.