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Ryann Miller 14 min read

The Next Generation of Canadian Giving

The Next Generation of Canadian Giving was just released by StratCom, HJC and Convio. It looks at donor behavior and generational relevance -- in other words, what age groups give at what levels, how they like to give and how they want to be treated.
The primary finding from this study is not news, per se, but now has quantifiable data to support it: different age groups should be treated distinctly, and give differently. Don't communicate with the Civic generation (people born 1945 or earlier) the same way you would Generation X. They have different relationships with your organization, give to you differently (and at different levels), and need a different strategic approach. There are some valuable insights to be gleaned for this study regarding donors in general and Canadian donors in particular.
Here's the generational breakdown:
  • Civics: b. 1945 or earlier; 73% give; $833 avg annual contribution
  • Boomers: b. 1946-1964; 66% give; $725 avg annual contribution
  • Gen X: b. 1965-1980; 61% give; $549 avg annual contribution
  • Gen Y: b. 1981-1991; 55% give; $325 avg annual contribution
Here are the key findings:

Which group deserves fresh focus?
Boomers and Gen Xers represent significant donor pools. This means that considering their population size and average gifts, they give as much as Civics. Gen X donate $2.3 billion annually, Boomers donate $4.1 billion annually, while Civics donate $2.6 billion annually.
TAKEAWAY: invest in Boomers and Gen X today.

Preferred Giving Channels for each group (in descending order)
  • Civics prefer direct mail, checkout donations and tribute gifts.
  • Boomers prefer checkout donations, fundraising events, and direct mail
  • Gen X prefers checkout donations, fundraising events, and online donations (via the website)
  • Gen Y prefers checkout donations, online (via the website) and charity gift shops. 
  • SMS and social network sites scored the lowest overall donations by channel and generation. While it represents a small piece of the giving pie now, it will continue to grow.
TAKEAWAY: Forge relationships with chains where you can be the recipient of those popular, multi-generational checkout donations.  Trust matters more the older one gets, while convenience is a priority for the younger generations though overall, Boomers and Civics share some solid common ground. Start small but invest in social media, knowing that you'll see dividends years down the road with Gen Y primarily.


How They First Heard of You?
Primarily through mainstream media, whether as a promotion or mentioned in another context. With all the hype around social media, this is a refreshing reminder of the importance of mainstream and traditional media. 


TAKEAWAY: Make sure you have some budget allocated in these media sources for any campaigns, and try to earn other media, such as interviews and mentions.


Communication and Involvement
4 out of 10 Gen Y and X donors believe mail is important. 
TAKEAWAY: Get their addresses and test DM with these generations! They might even give more.
4 out of 10 Gen X, Y and Boomers think participating in advocacy actions is important.
TAKEAWAY: If your organization and mission allows, test advocacy issues as a means for acquisition and a means to engage existing supporters.

Multi-channel is Actually Multi-Dimensional
The solicitation channel might be different from how the donor makes their donation, and might differ again from how they want to be communicated with over time. Nonprofits should offer choices regarding communication and donation channels and not expect donors to stay within any one channel.

Canadian-US findings of interest:
1 - 25% of Canadian donors give through monthly sustainer programs, while for Americans the number is just 16%. This is largely due to different banking structures and systems, resulting in a country where monthly debits can be made through checking accounts, and done so very easily.
2 - Peer to Peer Power: twice as many Canadian donors say they support friends, colleagues and family through peer to peer fundraising events. 
3 - Americans are more likely to give with their mobile phones (8% of US donors vs. 3% of Canadian donors). This is largely due to U.S. mobile carriers enabling mobile giving faster and better than Canadian companies.
All in all some great learnings from this study. I think much of this data would look the same if done with American donors, but it's nice to see Canada producing its own study as a benchmark for Canadian nonprofits. Thanks to StratCom, HJC and Convio for taking this step in the right direction.