Your Donors’ Habits & Motivations Are Permanently Changing… Are You?


My iPhone’s “control center” serves up a daily sampling of photos from my photo library, taking me back in time to pictures of vacations, graduations and reunions, birthdays, and weddings captured “On This Day,” sometimes many years ago. These strolls down memory lane are an invitation to revisit the past, but it’s not the oldest photos that give me pause lately — it’s revisiting photos from just one year ago. 

Try it with me. Go back in time for a moment. Scrolling through “On This Day” in 2020 means contemplating a time when our lives were turned upside down. And it’s an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come.  

I think we all know the world today is a different world than it was in February 2020And we’ve changed along with it.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Key Trends You Need To Keep Tabs On.

No one said it better than Bowie (IMHO). For those of us in the social impact sectorthe changes of the last 15 months have serious, long-term implications for how we approach reaching donor audiences and messaging to them. 

If you aren’t ch-ch-ch-ch-changing your approaches to accommodate how your donors’ habits and motivations have changed, then you’re not equipped for a post-2020 world.    

I’ll focus on two key trends that we are concentrated on here at THD: 

  1. Digital Acceleration: June 2021 may have in fact looked a lot more like June 2024 if the pandemic had never happened.  According to a McKinsey & Company surveythe pace of digital adoption has accelerated by three years thanks to the pandemic. In North America, 65% of customer interactions are now digital, compared to 41% in December 2019.

  2. Generational Shifts in Donor Expectations: Along with digital becoming the new normal for how we interact with our favorite brands, there are also important generational shifts taking place. THD recently published a report summarizing research that showed a widening gap between younger and older generations in how they make choices about which charities they give to.  

Boomers/seniors place unique importance on an organization’s credibility — trust, familiarity, and prior giving history matter when deciding whether to donate to a charity. Conversely, our research also revealed that younger donors are significantly more likely to change which organizations they give to — they are more flexible, and their loyalty to a brand is not automatic. Additionally, which organizations they give to is heavily influenced by the political and social identity of the nonprofit

The impact of these trends on fundraising represents a one-two punch. We’re all more digitally savvy than we were 15 months ago. And the next generation of donors — who are digital natives to begin with — won’t give like prior ones, both in terms of channel and motivations. Taken together, our changing habits and changing reasons for giving mean nonprofits like yours will have to do more to earn the loyalty and trust of donors in an increasingly crowded digital-first environment. But don’t despair… 

Turn Crisis & Change Into Opportunity. 

Needless to say, 2020 was an extraordinary year for the social impact sector. Many nonprofits — particularly those rallying to meet the needs of people affected by the pandemic — had a breakthrough year. However, reporting from the folks at GivingTuesday points out that the median nonprofit in their sample experienced lower results during 2020.

At this current moment in time, two extraordinary (albeit divergentopportunities exist for nonprofit organizations: 

  1. For those organizations that had a big 2020, turning new one-time donors who gave during a crisis into loyal, lifelong supporters is, perhaps like the pandemic itself, a once-in-a-century opportunity.

  2. For the rest of the nonprofit community (in fact the majority) who saw fundraising performance decline in 20202021 represents a renewed opportunity to break through and (re)connect with supporters. 

Turn and Face the Change: New Donors. New Channels. New Messages. 

In 2020, charitable giving became a priority for more people, broadening traditional philanthropic age and socioeconomic demographicsTotal giving increased by 10.6% compared to 2019, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness ProjectThis groundswell of generosity from people up and down the donor pyramid is one of the positive stories of last year.

In 2021, can we sustain the generosity and make it more evenly distributed across the full spectrum of charitable missions?

To meet the moment, communicating with donors where they are to deliver relevant experiences that resonate with their motivations and, as importantly, their belief systems is more important than ever before

We are engaged in this work with our partners as we speakAppreciating the urgency and time-sensitive task of encouraging pandemic-era donors to renew their support, we’ve developed data-backed, insight-driven multichannel campaigns targeting audiences that are younger and more diverseOur suite of digital marketing dashboards illuminates full-funnel conversion paths andwith 1-click comparisonsunique linear attribution with last click so that we’re able to recommend more informed media spend allocations and drive better ROIIn this way, the experience of the past 15 months has made us better marketers.  

So how are you embracing change? A year from now when you’re scrolling through your photo library, what story will the photos “On This Day” in 2021 tell?

We’d love to hear what strategies you’re employing to meet the moment. And we’d love to help you craft that story — wherever you are in your post-2020 journey. Drop me a line here to share what you’re doing and to let us know if you’d like to chat.

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