3 Things Archery Teaches Us About Nonprofit Fundraising

I discovered archery in high school. This was way before the Hunger Games and The Avengers' Hawkeye strutted onto the silver screen.

Unlike most sports, I was actually good at this one. I could block out distractions, focus on the target, and land arrows one by one into the golden center.  

But it drove my teammates crazy that I was often the last player on the shooting line. As the clock ticked down, I waited for the right moment in which my body, the environment, and the target all became one.

Whish …. Bullseye!

That perfect moment of zen prepared me well for a career in nonprofit marketing.

Focus on the target in front of you

Recently, I attended a conference with the same old session on how millennials are going to change nonprofit fundraising.

We all know they’re now the largest generation in the workforce and that they want nonprofits to communicate with them more often and in many different ways.

You may even have board members ask about how you’re going to attract younger donors. (Your response should be: You mean people in their 50s, right?)

Yes, millennials will likely transform fundraising … starting in about 13 years. That’s when the oldest millennials, 37 years old right now, will reach 50, the age in which most people start donating in meaningful amounts.

And it’s ok to set aside a small portion of your time and marketing budget to test ways to engage those potential donors. But don’t get distracted by that distant, moving target.

The big target right in front of you – the one you’re most likely to hit – are Baby Boomers. According to Blackbaud, the average U.S. donor is age 64. Sure, donor age varies by sector, but that’s the national average.

Can those donors see and hear themselves clearly in your marketing materials?


Aiming to Win?

Boomers are set to donate $6.6 trillion over the next two decades.

Aim for the gold center

As the young archer pictured above, I had the honor of being coached by Gretchen James. She was one of the first five women to be inducted into the Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame and she was relentless. I can still hear her say:

“Go for gold!”

Good marketers know their job is to make money. Things like raising awareness, storytelling and engaging audiences are means to the end of producing cold hard cash.

I suppose it’s a bit crass to say in some nonprofit circles, but if you truly care about your cause succeeding, then you have to go for gold.

Not red. Not blue. Gold.

And for most nonprofits, that is Boomers. Here’s what I mean:

  • Boomers are set to donate $6.6 trillion over the next two decades. (Source: Merrill Lynch)

  • They contribute 43 percent of all dollars donated today. (Source: Blackbaud)

  • On average, Boomers give $1,212 annually vs. $481 for Millennials. (Source: Blackbaud)

  • Boomers make up 55 percent of high-wealth donors, those with $200,000+ in annual household income. (Source: Abila)

A focus on the golden center helps feed more people. It invests in research that cures diseases. It sheds light on human rights abuses and frees political prisoners.

It may even empower the Boomers, the so-called “Me Generation,” to leave a charitable legacy that sustains and transforms many nonprofits.

Shoot a full round of arrows

Boomers are right there in front of us. And most nonprofits already have the arrows they need in their quivers. These include direct mail, email and web.  When these tools are used together in an integrated campaign, the average response rate is 37%.

That’s some pretty good shooting! And a good use of donor dollars by any measure.

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It’s also important to note that Boomers send checks and give online in nearly equal proportions. An integrated strategy of donor mail, email and web works best because it gives donors choices about how they want to give.

Just make sure the reply devices and online forms are as simple as possible. No one wants to squint to hand write information on a reply device or navigate a complicated website. That can knock your arrows off the target faster than an Arizona dust storm.

You know what else Boomers like?

It’s the same thing that Millennials (or any donors) want. Authentic, emotional stories that speak to them personally and show the tangible impact that their gift (Read: not your organization) is having in the lives of others.

Master that and you’ll achieve that perfect moment of zen – the one where all your arrows hit the target, no matter what age your donors are.

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Laura Ingalls Fuqua is co-founder of Abeja Solutions, a fundraising marketing firm in Phoenix, Arizona. A recovering journalist, Laura has worked over 20 years as a professional communicator in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors.