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Allyson Kapin 6 min read

Trends: Internet Demographics and Embracing Failure

The Millennials, Gen Xers, and the Matures

Millennials (ages 18-33) are an important demographic to the nonprofit sector. They are tech savvy. They love their gadgets and are constantly on the web via laptops and mobile devices. According to Pew’s latest study, “they still clearly surpass their elders online when it comes to many communications and entertainment-related activities, such as using social network sites and playing games online.” Interestingly, the fastest growth has been the Matures (ages 74 and older). Social network site usage among the Matures has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%.

Is your nonprofit tracking data on followers and fans from your social networks? What age groups are they comprised of?

Also noteworthy from the study, Gen Xers (ages 34-45) are more likely than Millennials to visit government websites. Given their interest in civic engagement and information, are Gen Xers more likely to visit nonprofit sites then Millienials? And if so, what is your nonprofit doing to make your website engaging to both Gen Xers and Millienials from an advocacy and donor perspective?

Nonprofits, Innovation, Failure, and Donations

Seth Godin says nonprofits need to stop operating like businesses. For a large part of history, nonprofits dealt with anonymous donors. That’s changed over the years, particularly with the internet boom. Now that nonprofits know who most of their donors are, where they live, and other pertinent info, nonprofits should “treat different people [donors, activists] differently,“ said Godin during an interview with Peter Panepento at the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Nonprofits must spend time building connections, but that’s difficult to do if nonprofits are trapped in a corporate box and don’t have an end goal that essentially puts them out of business. There are only a few organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation that publically say they will close up shop after they meet their ultimate mission (finding a cure). Godin says that this corporate mindset of continuing to be in “business” and evolve into other issues is problematic.

If nonprofits want to transform themselves they need to embrace failure (much like the technology and startups sectors). Are boards of directors prepared to fire senior staff or executive directors who have never failed before (aka not taking enough risks and innovating)? Godin argues that because nonprofits don’t have money loving shareholders to answer to, nonprofits should be failing fast to build community and connections along the way to figure out what’s going to help them meet their ultimate goals. If you are not willing to embrace failure, don’t go to work tomorrow, said Godin.

After Godin’s interview, Frank Barry over at Blackbaud posted what fundraising looks like today and how the internet and digital communication has affected the nonprofit sector over the years. Here’s a quick peek into some key statistics.

[Troublesome] Fundraising Stats

  1. First Year Donor Retention is 29.3%
  2. Fundraising Email Response Rate is 0.13%
  3. 67% of donors plan to eliminate or reduce support to nonprofits that over‐solicit
  4. Only 26% of Nonprofits Rated their Websites Very Effective
  5. Recurring Gift Donors only accounted for 10% of all US Donors


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.