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For many years, fundraising (and, for that matter, commercial marketing) has operated on the basis that a simple transaction occurs when money changes hands, and the recipient of the money delivers a product or service in return. That ‘service’ may be the delivery of humanitarian services in poverty-stricken countries, as readily as it may be a material product. But the transaction wasn’t seen as really entailing any ‘involvement’ between the parties — once the non-profit received the money, they expected to go off and fulfill their obligations and not hear from the donor again until the next time they needed some more money.

A fascinating trend in Western consumerist societies may give us some insights to new approaches which could enhance and augment our traditional fund-raising models:

Experiences

The Baby Boomer generation were born in tough economic times, and were brought up to value a long-term stable job, home ownership, and financial security. By contrast, Gen X and Gen Y have become progressively more blasé about these traditional values for a range of reasons — long term job stability is not something they’re familiar with or could even comprehend, the relative economic prosperity of modern times likewise has ensured that they haven’t grown up experiencing severe economic hardship and the drive for financial “security” is therefore not as strongly entrenched, and home ownership is seen in some cases as unattainable and in other cases as a burden of responsibility which they’d rather defer until later in life.

With their relative financial security, Gen X and Y seem far more willing to defer or dilute serious saving and investment strategies and instead tend to go seeking a whole raft of experiences. This is possibly also tied to the fact that people are marrying later in life, and often stay at home with their parents until well into their 20’s, thereby reducing their financial commitments.

At the same time, these generations are showing an increasing interest in social, environmental and humanitarian issues, and frequently view contributing in these areas as a crucial element of their lifestyle, often choosing to lessen their workloads in order to have more time for advocacy and volunteering.

With a sympathetic generation of socially conscientious 20- and 30- somethings actively seeking opportunities to contribute, how can a non-profit best capitalise on this goodwill? By creating experiential partnership opportunities in which supporters become much more than donors — rather, they are responsive to opportunities to engage in a scenario and take away from it memories, emotions, and learnings that not only reward them for their contributions, but also help to mature and develop their philanthropic and volunteering bent.

The application of this insight will vary from organisation to organisation — in fact, there are limitless possibilities — but the starting point is being aware of this trend. Next time you’re brainstorming about how to increase the supporter base for your non-profit organisation, give serious consideration to how you might create opportunities for ‘experiences’.

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