Granny’s $5 birthday surprise won’t cut it any longer.

Granny’s $5 birthday surprise won’t cut it any longer.

I’m on the 3rd floor of a Michigan Avenue focus group facility with a group of healthcare donors. I’ve just finished describing the directions of one my go-to exercises. They’re being asked to allocate $100 how they please across the organization. A male baby-boomer, on the younger side of the boom, says something unexpected: “I can’t allocate $100… because I would be embarrassed to give this organization just $100.” What just happened? $100 is a decent gift for a direct mail donor right? $100 used to really mean something in this business! Not anymore. Not like it used to anyway. This particular focus group was 3 years ago. I’ve been following this trend through my other research since. In many settings we’ve validated that younger donors have higher first gift amounts in acquisition. But why? It’s the same reason granny sends $5 bills in birthday cards. Our perception of the value of a dollar is very different by generation. At least, that was my hypothesis. So, I tested this assumption on a survey of 300 donors. I asked, “What is the minimum gift you could make to an organization and actually make a difference?” This is an adaptation of the Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter question: “At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good?” The results supported my hypothesis in a way a researchers only dreams about: Mean Response: Donors under 55: $171 Donors 55-70: $68 Donors 70+ $35 What does this mean? Well, in today’s world it means your low ask-strings in direct...