[GUEST POST] Generational Giving: How to Reach Donors of Any Age

When you write a fundraising appeal, do you take a one-size-fits-all approach? If so, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Different audiences want different things.

If your nonprofit receives donations from people of all ages, shouldn’t you write appeals that fit each generation you’re targeting? Read on to learn how you can reach donors of all ages by encouraging generational giving in your appeals.

What is generational giving?

Generational giving stems from the analysis of how members of each generation donate to nonprofits.

Qgiv’s Generational Giving Report analyzed how donors of each generation give and why. We also looked at how each generation wants to be communicated with and what they’re looking for from nonprofit appeals.

We’ve taken the data from that study and turned it into tips for nonprofits to reach each generation. This study came up with some really surprising findings that challenged what we thought we knew about each generation. Let’s take a look at what each generation is looking for and how you can target your appeals to each of these age groups to see better fundraising results.

How to reach Baby Boomers

If your nonprofit isn’t targeting Baby Boomers with appeal requests, these stats will definitely make you want to start. The Baby Boomer generation is incredibly charitable. Past studies on this generation found that approximately 72% donate to charity, and their charitable contributions make up 43% of all charitable giving.

Here’s how you can reach more Baby Boomer donors and convince them to give.

Preferred communication channels

Unsurprisingly, Baby Boomers prefer direct mail campaigns. Additionally, Baby Boomers responded favorably to newsletters and updates from your nonprofits.

Baby Boomers are relatively tech savvy, too. While they may prefer direct mail for appeals, a small majority of respondents noted a preference for emailed receipts for their donations. This generation is also active on social media — especially Facebook.

Given their preference for analog communications, you should primarily reach out to this generation via direct mail and phone calls, but you can provide updates and receipts via email and should post regularly on your nonprofit’s social media pages.

Preferred ways to give

Baby Boomers’ top three giving preferences are:

  • Mailing a physical check (so don’t neglect your direct mail appeals!)
  • Giving over the phone via credit card or eCheck
  • Donating online (include your donation form URL in your fundraising letters)

Baby Boomers also like to conduct research before making a donation. They tend to give to nonprofits they believe will use their donations wisely. Be sure to polish your nonprofit’s profile on websites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator. You want to convey both financial transparency and sound financial practices for this generation.

What appeals should include

Baby Boomers have specific things they look for in appeals. To ensure your appeals are effective for Baby Boomers, be sure to include:

  • Personalized salutation using the donor’s name
  • A larger, 14-point (or more) font that’s easy to read
  • White space for easy readability
  • An eye-catching image that supports your story
  • A story that includes how your nonprofit is trying to help
  • The URL to your online donation form
  • A full-page remittance slip (to make filling out a paper donation form easier)
  • A return envelope to make giving by check easy
  • If possible, include an image of your nonprofit’s GuideStar transparency badge or mention that recipients can review your nonprofit’s financials on GuideStar or Charity Navigator
  • A P.S. at the bottom of your appeal as this is one of the first things recipients read.

How to reach Gen X donors

Need larger donations to fund crucial needs at your nonprofit? You should reach out to Generation X donors. The Generational Giving Report found Generation X donors were most likely to give larger donations. Generation X donors are also most likely to give on an ongoing basis, which makes them great sustaining donors.

Preferred communication channels

Generation X prefers to receive communications via a mix of offline and online touches. This generation is active on social media but, like Baby Boomers, appreciate hearing from you over the phone or with a mailed letter too. If you attempt to direct Generation X to your website to learn more about you, make sure your website is modern and works well. Donors from this generation are wary of outdated and difficult websites.

Preferred ways to give

Generation X prefers to give digitally. 39% of respondents reported being most likely to give by responding to an appeal they saw on social media, especially on Facebook. It’s important to make use of the Facebook fundraisers feature on the platform and also include links to your online donation form on your social media pages for your fundraising campaigns.

Gen X donors like to give using eChecks, so your online donation form should be set up to accept eChecks and credit cards.

This generation is also very likely offer ongoing support, so making it easy to set up recurring giving is important. They’re also likely help offset processing fees for their gifts, so include the Gift Assist option on your donation form.

What appeals should include

While Generation X shares some communication preferences with Baby Boomers, their needs are unique. Here’s what your appeals should include to attract Gen X donors:

  • Social media posts supporting the fundraising campaign
  • A Facebook fundraiser component for those who want to give on social media
  • Send direct mail appeals that include testimonials from those your nonprofit benefits
  • Include a link to your donation form in direct mail appeals because this generation prefers giving online
    • The link should direct donors to a branded donation form that references the specific campaign you’re asking Gen X donors to give to. It’s crucial that your online donation form be easy to use. A polished digital presence goes a long way for this generation.
  • This generation expects a receipt right away after making their gift. Make sure your online donation form will email a receipt automatically when donations are made.

How to reach Millennials

Millennials are a very charitable generation. While they may not have the capacity of Baby Boomers and Gen X, as they advance in their career, their capacity grows. This generation represents only around 11% of philanthropic dollars raised according to Blackbaud’s Next Generation Report, but an amazing 84% of Millennials have a history of supporting nonprofit causes. Becoming acquainted with Millennials now will pay off as their giving capacity grows.

Preferred communication channels

Millennials are the generation most likely to give via text, so if you can get Millennials to sign up for your text list, reaching out through this communication channel will appeal to them.

Like Gen X and some Baby Boomer donors, Millennials are active on social media. They may not be as active on Facebook, though, so it helps to have a presence on other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

Surprisingly, Millennials also reported appreciating phone calls from nonprofits. This is likely because they see charitable giving as an important part of their legacy. They want to be known for helping change the world, which is also why this is a great group to send peer-to-peer event invitations to.

Preferred ways to give

Millennials may not have the giving capacity of their Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts, but they still want to support charitable causes that are important to them.

Many Millennials like to volunteer their time either as regular volunteers or as peer-to-peer fundraisers. Like Gen Z donors, Millennials are comfortable asking family and friends to support charitable causes.

Millennials strongly prefer giving online. They’re also the generation that most prefers to give via text fundraising.

They like to pay with services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal, or by eCheck. Some savvy nonprofits have even incorporated Venmo into their fundraising appeals to accept donations from Millennials.

What appeals should include

Millennial donors are digital natives. Most of your appeals should be in a digital format, which is a departure from what Baby Boomers and Gen X donors are looking for. Here’s what Millennials respond to:

  • Active and consistent social media campaign posting
    • This includes responding to comments and actively engaging with your Millennial supporters
  • Story-driven appeal copy that explains how their giving makes a difference
  • Pair stories with eye-catching images in social media appeals
  • Appeals should include impact statements or testimonials from those you serve
    • Millennials are the generation most likely to research a nonprofit before giving. They’re looking for impact statements and nonprofit financials on social media and on your website, so make these easy to find!
  • A text fundraising option
    • Share text fundraising keywords in social media posts and email appeals
    • Use outbound texts to Millennials on your text fundraising lists for urgent appeals and include a link to your donation form
  • Incorporate Apple Pay or similar services into your campaign, especially if they can use these payment methods on your online donation form.
  • Like Gen X donors, Millennials will offer ongoing support and will offset donation processing fees
  • Digital receipts that send automatically after giving online
  • Campaign updates so they can see how funds are used

How to reach Gen Z donors

The Generation Z donors responding to the Generational Giving study were between 18 and 24 years old. Many members of this generation are still in school, so reaching them can be difficult. That said, this generation is very philanthropic and motivated to make a difference. They’ve been given the moniker “philanthro-kids” for their extensive involvement in fundraising, donating, and volunteering. Why are Gen Z donors so motivated to make a difference? They view philanthropy as part of their identity.

You’ll want this generation on your side.

Preferred communication channels

Like Millennials, Gen Z donors prefer social media communications.

A poor social media presence is the number one reason donors from this generation choose not to give. You’ll need an active social media presence.

Additionally, they’re motivated to make a difference, so encourage them to register for your peer-to-peer fundraising events or volunteer opportunities on social media. This generation is a peer-to-peer powerhouse.

Gen Z donors will visit your website when researching your nonprofit. An outdated website is a major turnoff for this generation, so update your content regularly and be sure your site doesn’t look dated.

Generation Z wants regular updates on a monthly basis. This can be on social media or over the phone.

Preferred ways to give

Because this generation is often still in school, they lack the giving capacity of older generations. That said, they are very motivated to support nonprofits.

Their number one resource is their time. Engage Gen Z donors as volunteers and peer-to-peer participants. This means having opportunities available to engage with this generation on school breaks over the summer and on longer holidays.

When giving financially, Gen Z donors are like Millennials. They want to give digitally via an online form. That said, this generation also likes to give via text fundraising or using a giving app.

Additionally, this generation will donate physical items when possible.

What appeals should include

  • Quick and easy ways to give
    • This can be directly on social media or with a download button or link to your online donation form
    • Via text fundraising
    • Or with a giving app
  • A social media component
    • 32.6% of survey respondents reported they’d be most likely to give from a social media post
    • 29.1% want to give using text fundraising or a giving app
  • Include a text fundraising campaign strategy and include a text giving keyword in your appeals
  • Encouragement to share your appeal or fundraise on behalf of your nonprofit
  • After the gift, your fundraising campaign should incorporate monthly digital updates to Gen Z donors that explains how donations are being used and the impact being made
  • Add the ability to send an email receipt automatically when donations are made


What you say and how you say it have a major impact on your ability to reach members of each generation. Use the findings from Qgiv’s Generational Giving Report to craft targeted appeals that reach donors where they are and communicate in the ways they appreciate.

Learn more

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn more:
Mind the (Generation) Gap: Data-Backed Strategies to Engage and Inspire Donors of All Ages
Hosted by Cathexis Partners and presented by Qgiv.
Watch the on-demand webinar

Shay Lessman is a writer and editor with a passion for helping nonprofit organizations succeed. He has experience in fundraising communications and has written several successful grants. He is also a proud pet parent of two very naughty dogs. When he’s not working at Qgiv, he can usually be found writing poetry, playing games, or listening to podcasts.

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