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Online Philanthropy Engaging Young Donors

August 22, 2007

There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal about how young people are reinventing philanthropy.  Instead of just giving money, young people are using online technologies to inspire their friends and family into giving to their favorite causes as well.  Interestingly, some of the individuals profiled in the article actually created their own online tools to create online communities in order to engage people they know.   

Traditional fundraising appeals do not appear to be effective with younger individuals.  This is a sign of things to come for those doing philanthropy.   Large direct mail pieces just don't have the power that they used to have.  Five to ten years ago, organizations could send out a direct mail piece to a good prospect list and expect a decent return.  But, as this type grassroots fundraising changes, organizations need to identify evangelists that will go out and talk to their community of friends and family about donating to your organization.  We continue to find that individuals are more responsive when appeals come from people they know and when action is easy to take, such as by the simple click of the mouse.

Developing these evangelists is not always easy.  Here are some steps you can take to cultivate your own group on evangelists:

  1. Identify existing evangelists
    See which of your supporters consistently open e-mails and take action.  These people are your evangelists.
  2. Personalize it!
    Allowing people to personalize a message increases the chances that the message will actually be listened to.
  3. Offer incentives
    Similar to rewards points for credit cards, incentives can go a long way to motivate people to take action.
  4. Recognize their work
    Volunteer recognition is critical component to volunteer management.


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