Are you chasing unicorns or building your future donor base?

Roger Craver likes to say, “Don’t chase unicorns.”

He taught me a ton about fundraising and he’s right on here. The ALS ice bucket challenge, the Barack Obama fundraising success of 2008 and 2012, Invisible Children’s Joseph Kony viral video… these are all unicorns.

They are strikes of lightning that are close to impossible to replicate. They usually require a huge investment that detracts from the basics of good retention fundraising. (Hint: Read Roger’s book. It’s really good).

I had the privilege of speaking at Blackbaud’s NPNext — an invitation-only event for senior non profit executives — along with Roger and other incredible fundraising experts.

Roger talked about retention fundraising. I talked about engaging millennials.

Roger might say engaging millennials is chasing a fundraising unicorn. After all, they only represent 11% of total charitable giving in the United States. They are notoriously picky about direct impact. And reaching them in the crowded digital space requires new tactics and techniques.

But I don’t think it’s chasing unicorns to take a middle ground strategy when it comes to generations and giving. Maximize your boomer and senior audiences — who make up nearly 70% of total charitable giving in the United States. But also offer an expandable welcome mat for millennial donors.

Why? Because the relationships you create now will have a future return on investment. We just finished a project with a client whose middle donor base is comprised mostly of people who began giving 30 years ago — when they corresponded in age with millennials now.

The return on investment won’t be immediate. But it still merits attention — and is not chasing unicorns. As long as you don’t sacrifice your current donor base to do it.