In the original Back to the Future, Marty McFly traveled back in time and learned lessons that helped him alter his family’s future for the better.

Next month, we are releasing our latest study, a survey we did with Edge Research of nearly 6,000 midlevel donors from 36 organizations. One finding, in particular, reminds me of Marty McFly. Nearly half of current midlevel donors got interested in their most important cause during young adulthood (ages 20-39).

Initial Interest in Most Important Cause

So why the time travel reference?

Many midlevel fundraisers are rightly focusing their energies engaging with Boomers and Silent Generation donors. Our survey found that 82% of current midlevel donors are over 60.

Still, most of these donors got excited about their favorite cause much earlier in their lives, which means midlevel fundraisers must essentially run two programs. One should focus on maximizing revenue from older donors. The other should focus on building relationships with younger donors that may develop into more fruitful relationships as they age into prime giving years.

Marty McFly had a time-traveling DeLorean so he could easily jump back in time to plant charitable seeds in the minds of young people, then jump back to the present to raise money from their older, more established selves. We don’t have this option and must build the next generation of midlevel donors now — even if it takes years for them to bloom.

To help support this work, the study offers some insightful guidance about engaging with GenX and Millellenial/Gen Z donors. We’ll share these details soon!


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