Effective Fundraising Techniques for Reaching Generation Z Donors

In the past four blogs, we have covered the generation characteristics of the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials. We referred you to the census bureau and The Center for Generational Kinetics for readily available, no cost generational cohort information.  We talked about how that information can be applied to create effective fundraising techniques that result in successful fundraising campaigns to Greatest Generation, Baby Boomer, Gen x, and Millennial donors. Today, we talk about using specific fundraising techniques to implement fundraising campaigns that appeal to Generation Z donors, our youngest cohort of donors.

Generation Z Donor Cohort Characteristics

Generation Z, defined as people born after 1995, make up 25 percent of the United States population. 

As a generation, they only know what life is like during times of war: the September 11 terrorist attacks happened before they were born or when they were young children. Since then we’ve been involved in a war on terror. Generation Z lives in a more diverse world than their predecessors. They grew up knowing an African American president. They will be the last white-majority generation in the United States. The Great Recession of 2008 also greatly affected Generation Z. Generation Z lived through the financial stresses of their parents, adopting attitudes of independence and autonomy similar to Gen Xers and the Greatest Generation.

Moving beyond the racial integration and women’s movements of the Baby Boomers, Generation Z has witnessed civil rights being granted to the LGBTQ community. Like Gen Xer’s and Millennials, Generation Z is growing up in a world filled with mass shootings and where hate crimes are increasing. Like the Baby Boomers, Generation Z sees the struggle between the old and new cultural identities expressed in political conflict. Political polarization currently dominates the cultural struggle over how to deal with the rise of the minority majority, the rise in mass shootings and the acceptance of sexual fluidity. As a result, Generation Z is politically active even though most of them are not old enough to vote.

Wanting to win at everything, Generation Z is highly competitive. They want to get good grades, win at sports, be accepted into the best schools and secure the highest paying jobs. Not everyone can, of course. To get ahead, Generation Z members learn to act quickly before someone else beats them to the punch. Patience is not a strong suit. Neither is collaboration. As a result of their competitiveness, Generation Z donors tend to be independent, self-confident and autonomous.  Armed with ways to earn income through advances in technology, Generation Z are perfect young entrepreneurs.

Generation Z never knew a world without Facebook, Twitter and Google. While Millennial donors are technology savvy, Generation Z donors are technologically sophisticated. Twenty-five percent of Generation Z is constantly online. They also live on their mobile devices. Most of their information seeking and socialization is done through social media. In fact, they may prefer text messaging and app’s above face-to-face interactions.

Because limitless information has always been available at their fingertips, Generation Z donors form strong opinions about a broad array of topics. They are used to processing a lot of information within very short times frames resulting in short attention spans. Like eight seconds or less. If you want Generation Z donors’ attention, you must grab it immediately.

According to “The Next Generation of American Giving: The Charitable Habits of Generation Z, Y, X, Baby Boomers and Matures” by the Blackbaud Institute Fifteen percent of Generation Z donates to charity. Twenty-six percent of Generation Z volunteers. Many Generation Z young adult donors are accumulating or saddled with high student loan debt. Generation Z donors also tend to me very environmentally aware.

Developing Effective Fundraising Campaigns Aimed to Reach Generation Z Donors

The most effective thing you can do to improve your fundraising performance with Generation Z donors is to make sure your fundraising campaigns are accessible via mobile technology. First and foremost, your website must be mobile friendly. Must. If you have not yet explored smart phone technologies, now is the time. Unlike Baby Boomer and Generation X donors, Generation Z will not respond to email. Like Gen X and Millennial donors, Generation Z donors will respond to text messaging. In fact, if you can create an app for giving, even better. Remember that Generation Z donors may prefer text messaging and app’s above face-to-face interactions.

Effective fundraising campaigns targeted to Millennial donors will need to employ quick, attention-grabbing communication techniques. Messages can be short through headlines, pictures and captions. Make your colors bold. Produce brief, online videos that are one, maybe two minutes at the most. Use Twitter and Instagram to start. Then look at other social media vehicles.

In your messaging, describe your strongest strengths, that is, what makes you cream of the crop. What makes you the best? Feature agency awards, testimonials, accreditations and certifications on your website and in your appeals. Remember, pictures and logos are better than text.  Use pictures from several spectrums of your donor base: gender, age, ethnicity, culture and profession, among others.

Unlike Millennial donors who respond to messages about collaboration, Generation Z donors respond to messages emphasizing independence and autonomy. And they are competitive. Design your fundraising campaigns to be competitive. Compare their individual giving against what they gave the year before or against the best giver in the class. Pit this year’s income goal against last year’s, making it a competition to see who topples last year’s record. Ask for immediate responses. Number one, while you have their eight seconds worth of attention, take advantage of it. Number two, pit their response against time. To be successful, come from as entrepreneurial and competitive posture as you can.  

Generation Z donors are constantly looking for new ideas and experiences. You can meet the need for newness by leveraging communication and advocacy campaigns with your fundraising campaigns. As with Millennial donors, to successfully reach Generation Z donors make your fundraising activities short with no long-term commitments. In addition, give your Generation Z donors opportunities to be heard and express their opinions. This means designing and structuring interactive communication and fundraising campaigns. Surveys are one way to elicit responses. Just make sure that if you ask for responses, respond back. And not weeks or months later. Immediately. The attention span of Generation Z donors is too short for anything else. Make responding to you immediately rewarding. Acknowledge them, thank them, validate them. Let your Generation Z donors know they are the best of the best.

In Conclusion

To most successfully reach Generation Z donors:

  • Step up your social media and text messaging capabilities.
  • Make sure your communications and website are mobile friendly.
  • Make messages short.
  • Use attention-grabbing design.
  • Diversity is important.
  • Craft your messages using themes of independence and autonomy.
  • Present yourself at the top of your game.
  • Immediately reward them for responding to you.


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