Not too long ago I was on the telephone speaking to a nonprofit CEO. She had called me to catch up and also to tell me that she was looking to do a wealth screening of her donors. She was asking me what I thought about it. I replied that it’s always a good idea to know as much as possible about your donors.

That got me thinking about today’s nonprofit donors. Of course, no donor profile is 100 percent the same from one organization to another, but I think that today’s donors have evolved. Major donors have always been sophisticated in their giving, but I think that in today’s digital world, there’s a lot more sophistication even if a donor gives a gift of $10. Most donors want to see and feel (because as we know, giving is first emotional and then it’s rationalized) that they’re giving to a group that’s going to make a difference––even if they’re donating a small amount to charity.

So, I began to ask myself for this blog post, what is today’s donor like? What are some of the characteristics that we can generalize across the board?

  • Transparency and accountability: Today’s donors want to donate to organizations that are transparent and accountable (it doesn’t matter if it’s a Boomer or a Gen Z donor). The social media and the digital age have ushered in transparency and accountability for all brands, including nonprofits. So, it’s essential for groups to make sure they demonstrate impact and also show that they’re the best stewards of the community trust and money that they’ve received. They have to be transparent and accountable in many ways, but especially concerning finances.
  • Women continue to rise as philanthropists: Women are a force of nature, and while they are well represented in teams in the philanthropic sector, it’s only recently that they’ve become a force in giving as well. That will only increase as more women assume positions of leadership and power on par with what men have long enjoyed. Organizations and groups like the Women Donor Network and Philanthropy Women are allowing women to network, understand their power as philanthropists and to collaborate for causes and nonprofits.
  • Slick is out and authenticity reigns: Because of social networking and live streaming, all kinds of donors are much more used to seeing messages from their favorite charities which are not slick and aiming to be an award-winning piece. Donors don’t care to see overly produced videos all of the time. Instead what they want to look at is that your nonprofit and its leaders are true to the mission, vision, and ideals for the cause and the people or issues it serves. Authenticity is essential to success.
  • Interest increases into technology and artificial intelligence (AI). As people become more accustomed to the reality that technology and artificial intelligence will surpass anything and everything that humans have been able to do in all of human history, there is much more interest in giving toward issues that blend the human experience with technology and AI. This is especially true in education, but also in organizations that are working on social issues, such as medicine and job placement. Money is also flowing into groups that are trying to understand how AI and humans will relate going forward, and although this is currently happening at the highest levels, in time, it will also become a part of charitable giving for the broader public.
  • Mission results. Donors of the modern era are not interested any longer in lip service. They want to know that there are measurable and quantitative results that can be proven, mainly because we live in a world that is full of data and information. That means that nonprofits cannot promise and then not deliver on results. Instead, a better strategy is to have the bold and big vision but educate and inform donors of the smaller milestones and steps along the way toward the reality of the accomplishment of an organization’s mission.

It’s my personal experience that every nonprofit brand should keep in mind, that donors and the public want authenticity. People want to be informed in a straightforward and genuine way about what can and cannot be done. The increase in varying backgrounds and experiences into positions of leadership, the relentless noise of social media, the 24-hour news cycle, the breaking down of barriers and other factors have created new challenges and opportunities for nonprofits. Today’s groups have to understand that they have to always keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in society, business and government since often events transpire in minutes or hours as opposed to days.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: How to Dominate Your Fundraising to Create Your Success” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.