Share of the American Wallet: What It Does and Does Not Mean for Your Nonprofit

October 4, 2017 Susan Ross

The Blackbaud Institute’s newest research report, Share of the American Wallet, was released earlier this month. This report is based on data about discretionary spending by Americans, and focuses on the key demographic indicators of charitable giving.

Here is what it means, and doesn’t mean, for your organization.

DO: Focus on older generations and consider the full household makeup

Not surprisingly, older Americans (over 65 years of age) give the most money to charities. Age is one of the best predictors of giving, but it is not the only one. The overall makeup of the household also matters. Other factors that make a difference include: marital status, number of children in the home, income, and education level. See the report for the full list of the best prospects.

Knowing who is most likely to give can help your organization target and prioritize prospects. You have limited time and resources, and focusing on the right people is important, especially for major giving, planned giving, and other high-touch fundraising methods. You can use the information in the report to analyze your current database, and search for the best prospects among donors and non-donors. Identify people that might have been missed, and those who could benefit from more attention. Next, plan who to target for conversion to a donor, or for increasing their giving.

In addition to helping you target the right prospects, this information can also help you plan how to communicate appropriately. While many older Americans are on social media and email, they still consider mailings an important way to stay in touch. After looking at the report, consider whether the communication methods you’re using target the best prospects.

DON’T: Ignore younger supporters or forget your mission

Age and household makeup are important, but you can’t ignore younger prospects or prospects with other demographics. With a long-term view in mind, the young people of today will eventually age (everyone does!) and begin to give more. Start to build a relationship with Millennials now, and you’ll see the benefits later. Communication is key here also; use every available method (email, social media, mail, and your nonprofit website) to promote your organization and share your impact. The best communication plans include strategies to target the best prospects (as discussed above) and strategies that will engage everyone.

You also need to remember your mission, and the role it plays in cultivating donors. Fundraising is all about finding people that care about your cause as much as you do, and convincing them to join you. The information in the report tells you who the best prospects might be, but only you can identify the best prospects for your organization. If you understand deeply who cares about your mission, then you can find the overlap between who is likely to give based on demographics and who is interested in your mission. Create donor profiles for these prospects, then consider: who do you know that fits the profile? And, where can you find new donors that fit the profile?

But what if you don’t have this information?

If you don’t have this vital information in your database, don’t despair, and don’t give up! It can be a challenge to collect, analyze, and use data. But you can do it. Start by encouraging everyone who interacts with donors or prospects to ask questions, and input what they learn into your database. Asking for birthdays or graduation year is an easy start. Asking about children can often be an easy win, too. The purpose for these questions is ultimately relationship building. The more you know about your donors, the better you can meet their needs. The better you meet their needs, the more loyal they will be to your organization.

Discretionary Spending Data

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