Meet HENRY, the fundraiser’s dream catch

Once upon a time, in an era not long past, YUPPIES (Young, Upwardly-mobile (sometimes Urban) Professionals) were the sought-after target of fundraising teams in nonprofits large and small. But the high-spending lifestyle of the Boomer generation got in the way of their much-touted potential as givers. American philanthropy, although impressive, has been stuck at around 2 percent of GDP for more than 40 years.

Now comes a new donor prospect. It’s HENRY – the Higher Earning, Not Rich Yet folks who inhabit the $100,000 to $250,000 income bracket. HENRYs took a beating during the Great Recession, but they’re back and with cash to spare (and share, we can hope).

According to the Engage:Affluent blog, “this group is critically important to accessible luxury brands like Coach, Kate Spade, Restoration Hardware, as well as to higher-end mass brands such as Williams Sonoma, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic.”

And according to me, HENRYs are just as important to small- to mid-size nonprofits.

goldfish_hook_8223Six-figure or more gifts get the press. So it’s no surprise that fundraisers focus on the “big fish,” leaving the smaller fries to swim unnoticed. However, for most nonprofits HENRYs are ideal prospects. They can be the faithful $1,000 to $2,500 annual donors and the $10,000 to $25,000 campaign pledge-makers.

And get this. Unlike the scarcer, richer mega-donors, there are a lot of HENRYs out there – nearly 10 HENRY households for every “ultra-affluent” one. HENRYs are found in every demographic, which means there’s probably a bunch of them in your existing donor pool.

Because they’ve been mostly “under-fished” by the majority of fundraisers, most HENRYs are giving below their capacity. So if you’re looking for a new breed of donor, cast your net on the other side of the fundraising boat. You can’t do better than HENRYs. They’re a fundraiser’s dream catch.

But what does it take to reel them in?

The folks over at the Engage:Affluent blog tell us that HENRYs are “smart and careful with their money.” They’re brand conscious. HENRYs want experiences that are personally rewarding. They respond to communication that’s “clear and honest.” And although they’re reluctant to admit it, HENRYs like status symbols.

From what I’ve observed, HENRYs follow a similar pattern when choosing where to give. They look for organizations with name recognition and a good reputation (strong brand). They want to be hands-on with the causes they support. HENRYs can spot “spin” messages a mile away. And while they claim otherwise, they’re not immune to giving clubs and public recognition.


1.  Maximize every possible venue to communicate the good your organization does in the community, nation, or world. And don’t stop with your own PR efforts. Tap the communication networks of your most enthusiastic donors. HENRYs are social media savvy and when they like something, they let their friends know.

2. Invite HENRYs into the organization’s work. Granted, some nonprofits find this easier to do than others. Distance, confidentiality issues, staffing limitations, liability – the challenges are real. But creating workarounds is well worth the effort.

3. Tell the truth about your organization — always — even when the news isn’t so good. That said, don’t veer into TMI territory. There’s appropriate honesty and there’s over-kill.  If you’re uncertain where your messaging falls on the continuum, ask a HENRY or two. They’ll let you know.

4. Create opportunities for donors to meet each other and occasionally mix it up across gift levels. HENRYs feel special when rubbing shoulders with major donors. Plus it’s a great way to lift their sights to even more generous giving. Some smaller “fish” do grow bigger over time.

Give these tips a try with the HENRYs in your corner of the big-wide philanthropic pond. Then drop me a line. I look forward to your fish stories.

For more tips on upping your catch, see:

Why a warm welcome to first-time donors matters

Forget the stuff, give ’em information

Is your fundraising program punching above or below weight?


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