What Are Our Prospects Thinking? Getting The Constituent Frame of Reference

24 08 2011

Do you know what your alumni, patients, members, donors or prospects are thinking? Or more importantly why?  Preparing a major or planned gift and annual fund strategies may depend on their frame of reference. We think about this most often in annual giving because we are aggressively segmenting, re-segmenting … and probably re-segmenting again.  However, we need to be thinking about how we talk to our constituencies in person and in written communication.

The Beloit College 2015 “Mindset List” came out again this August.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this list, it is a great cultural snapshot.  The list was created to give faculty a framework to think about incoming students and what their frame of reference would be. They have just published a book on the list that will be worth a look and should have implications for fundraising.  While the Mindset List won’t answer all of our questions, it helps us think about how different various constutencies really are.

This year’s list about incoming freshmen includes:

“Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.” (By the way, I still get emotional thinking about the day the Wishbook would show up!)

“They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.” (This group of students does not know of a world without the internet.)

 “There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.”

While I am not sure I ever knew what was cool, I only have to spend a few minutes around a few “twenty-somethings” and I am sure I don’t know now.   The 2015 list is both fascinating and frightening on some levels, but I encourage you to look at the Class of 2002 list.  These are the folks who are now 30 something – they are prime targets for donor acquisition and cultivation for larger gifts. Our engagement of this group for philanthropy purposes must differentiate from other constituent groups.  So how do you plan to adjust your strategy?

Create your own mindset checklist:

Major/Planned Giving: Prepare for the prospects – What generation are they from (WWII vs. Gulf War)?  What are the cultural touch points for your organization (campus experience, exhibits, medical experience)?

Annual Giving: Do your solicitations speak to the targeted segment? Are you referencing things that will be outside of their cultural reference? Does the look of solicitations appeal to appropriate segments?

Good Luck! – Mark Marshall

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