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John Perell thinks about what it takes to connect with younger donors


Often overshadowed by their Baby Boomer and Millennial counterparts, Generation X is used to being overlooked—both in their day-to-day lives and by nonprofit organizations. But thanks to some research we commissioned to gather much-needed insights into Gen X, we can safely say that these latchkey kids are poised to make a big splash in charitable giving in the coming decades.

We shared our findings in our latest eBook, “Don’t You Forget About Me: The Nonprofit Marketer’s Guide to Generation X.” But we couldn’t stop there. We’ve been diving deeper into conversations with thought leaders across the industry on different aspects of the research.

In the fifth episode of Season 6 of our Groupthinkers podcast, we sat down with John Perell, Director of Strategy and Member Experience at the Smithsonian Institution, to talk about the importance of acquiring younger donors and how organizations can evolve to stay relevant with younger audiences.

Understanding what motivates younger donors to give

When it comes to meaningfully connecting with and acquiring younger donors, we first have to understand what moves them. During our research, we asked donors why they chose to support organizations they have given to in the last two years.

While all generations agreed that belief in the cause was their top motivator, the remaining answers revealed a clear divide between the older and the younger generations.

The older generations—Older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers—are interested in the more traditional model of support: making a financial contribution that is followed by impact reports showcasing the work their money has made possible.

But the younger generations—Younger Gen Xers and Millennials—showed a strong desire to help increase the clout and the reach of the organizations they were giving to.

Understanding this divide is critical when it comes to reaching younger audiences.

Gen X reasons for giving

In this episode, John Perell shares his perspective on:

  • The need to acquire younger donors
  • How digital marketing plays a role in reaching younger audiences
  • Evolving the relevance and messaging of your organization

Meet our guest

John Perell Headshot John Perell

Smithsonian Institution

Director of Strategy and Member Experience

“The new leadership team is really starting to think of us as a movement as much as being this kind of venerable institution. … They get that we have to speak almost two different languages for the different parts of our collective philanthropic group.”


Want more?

Groupthinkers is the podcast for nonprofit marketers by RKD Group. This is a must-listen experience of thought-provoking content that inspires insight on the industry and strategic decisions. Groupthinkers brings together innovators and curators in nonprofit marketing, branding and direct response to tackle the major issues facing nonprofits today. Be sure to tune in for Season 6, as we drop new episodes over the next few weeks.

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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