Learn About Millennials and Charity

The Generation That Wants Real Change, Not Platitudes

a young woman in an office using a smart phone
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Millennials—young people in their 20s and early 30s—are changing the philanthropic landscape. They bring new expectations to charitable giving, and they demand new kinds of information from charitable organizations. New services for charitable giving are popping up to give Millennials the giving experience they want, but many nonprofits and workplace giving programs have not yet caught up.

One of the most pressing tasks facing nonprofits and CSR (corporate social responsibility) professionals is coming to terms with Millennials’ expectations and demands. For many nonprofits and workplace giving programs, their continued success may well depend on it.

Whether you’re a nonprofit looking to find new donors or a company trying to increase employee engagement in your charitable giving programs, the influence of Millennials brings both challenges and opportunities. Although meeting the expectations and demands of Millennial donors requires some organizations to change how they communicate with potential donors, these changes could open new doors for long-term partnerships.

Millennials Love Online and Social Giving

The biggest disruptor of charitable giving in the past decade has been the growth of online and social ways to give back and the fact that almost everyone has a smartphone in her pocket.  Which generation has led that change?  Millennials. Why? Because the digital revolution has untethered the connection to established organizations.

No longer does a donor who knows his way around online and on social media have to look to formal charities to get their money to needy causes. They can do it directly. Just consider the success of fundraising on crowdfunding platforms, such as Indiegogo and Crowdrise, and online events such as #GivingTuesday.

We can give just as easily to one needy individual or group of people as we can to an organization that we must trust to channel our funds to the people we want to help. Recent data from Blackbaud's annual Giving Report bears witness to these changes. For instance,

  • Overall giving grew approximately one percent in 2016
  • But, online giving grew 7.9 percent in 2016 
  • Online donations were 7.2 percent of all fundraising in 2016
  • #GivingTuesday online donations were up 20 percent in 2016
  • Nearly 17 percent of online donations were made on a mobile device in 2016

Millennials grew up using smartphones, laptops, and tablets. For them, constant connectedness is a fact of life. Whether they’re keeping in touch with friends or researching nonprofits, Millennials rely on social media, websites and search engines, and instant access to mobile technology. It comes as little surprise that Millennials expect to do their giving online, and they want the websites and platforms where they give to look sleek and up-to-date.

Making Giving Public With Social Sharing

Millennials are avid users of social media, and they bring a social media sensibility to their charitable giving. Their online identities express who they are and what they care about. They want to share the causes they care about with friends and colleagues.

If their charitable giving helps build a school or provides vaccines to fight disease, Millennials expect to be able to share images on Facebook or Twitter so their friends can see how their contributions make a difference. It's all part of the social selves that Millennials curate online. However, appealing to Millennials in this way is not just about satisfying their vanity.

By helping Millennial donors to share their charitable giving, you can connect with new donors. Millennials love the feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing that their donations make a difference. And sharing that glow with others makes it even better. When Millennials share their satisfaction with their friends, those friends often want to get involved too.

Tangible Results Motivate New Donors

Attachment to particular organizations or institutions does not drive Millennials. Rather, they are passionate about specific causes and helping people. That's one reason Millennials want nonprofits to give them concrete evidence that their giving has an impact. They want regular updates about successful projects and programs. They want to know who they helped.

When Millennials check a nonprofit’s website, they look for information about what the organization does and how donations are used. They are less interested in the people or the ideas behind a nonprofit than they are in the results the nonprofit produces.

Nonprofit "self-talk" doesn't impress Millennials unless it is backed up with tangible results. Millennials don’t give because of who you are and how passionate you are about your cause: they give because of what you do They want to know that you’re making a real difference and improving lives.

Embracing Change 

More than half of the Millennials surveyed by the Millennial Impact Report (2015) said they would be interested in making monthly donations to a nonprofit. Given that donor retention is one of the biggest issues in nonprofit fundraising, this means that Millennials may change the philanthropic landscape in a way that will be a great relief to nonprofits.

Monthly gifts from Millennial donors could be a source of stability, all too hard to come by in the world of nonprofit fundraising today. That potential staying power will only happen, however, if nonprofits get better at appealing to Millennial donors. That means offering Millennials:

  • sleek, up-to-date online giving,
  • concrete results through stories about successful projects and programs,
  • encouragement to share the results of their contributions with friends and colleagues

Meeting the new challenges posed by Millennial donors could open up incredible new opportunities for nonprofits and workplace giving programs.