Get to know #themillennialdonor

by Danielle Easton
Association of Fundraising Professionals, Central Illinois Chapter

The status quo is changing. Understanding the millennial donor is not something to continue putting off.

A man walks into a bar. He sits down, orders a drink and is soon joined by a friend. They talk about work, mutual acquaintances, the news. The discussion turns to an upcoming gala for a local nonprofit, the man’s favorite charity. He asks his friend for a large donation. The friend agrees. They talk for a while longer and make plans to meet up again… when the friend plans to ask the man for a large donation for his favorite local nonprofit.

No, this isn’t a bad joke. However, if you are a millennial, you might think it is. Because when it comes to philanthropy and those born between 1980 and 2000, this is an outdated way of doing things. We are all familiar with the stereotypes of millennials, but to help understand their thought process when it comes to philanthropy and fundraising, we need to become familiar with the characteristics of millennials. They are tech-savvy, educated and civic-minded. They are compassionate, progressive and diverse. And, probably most importantly, they are currently America’s largest generation, surpassing baby boomers by nearly a million.

That last statement is the very reason we need to understand millennials better. It should be enough cause for every nonprofit CEO and board of directors to take notice. Because America’s largest generation is different. They are changing the philanthropic landscape.

Does the scenario of a man walking into a bar and walking out with a large donation still exist? Yes. Do people still give to people? Yes. Will that always be the case? Maybe. Nevertheless, organizations need to start thinking differently. Nonprofits often tout their “Return on Investment” to donors, a financial term that is used to measure impact and evaluate performance. ROI is important: donors need to know their money is making a difference. But nonprofits need to borrow another catchphrase from the business world and apply it to the way they fundraise… diversify. Diversifying your donor database, or donor segmentation, is a necessity. To only concentrate on one type of donor would be a disservice to your organization. Knowing what makes millennials different from previous generations is critical. Here are some tips to consider about millennials as you diversify:

They Do Donate!
It’s a misconception that millennials don’t donate. It’s a fact that they do. According to the Millennial Impact Report, 84 percent of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. But unlike the generations before them, they tend to give smaller amounts to several organizations. It’s also important to note that if a millennial believes in your cause and feels like their support is making a difference, they’re more likely to set up a recurring, monthly gift.

…But the Check Is Not In the Mail
According to Winspire, 58 percent of millennials prefer to donate through an organization’s website. Why? Two top reasons: they can do so on their own time, and they can do so after they research the organization. Only 21 percent responded that they prefer to give the old-fashioned way, through the mail. Other ways to give trends? Facebook, text messages and mobile apps.

There’s a Cause for That
Millennials give to causes, not organizations. And the types of causes millennials are giving to are different from previous generations. Millennials are most interested in causes involving family, children, health and animals. They are also global thinkers and like to give to big, worldwide causes like Charity: Water. One sector on the decline from all other generations before it: religion.

…And They’re Willing To Work
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people ages 20 to 24 are the least likely to volunteer. However, millennials are willing to give what they consider their biggest asset—their time—under the right circumstances. The Millennial Impact Report states that 77 percent of millennials say they’re most likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause. In addition, they prefer to volunteer with groups of people they know, as opposed to working independently.

Communication is the Key
Millennials want regular communications. According to re: charity, nearly half want to hear from an organization at least monthly. Pictures, videos and real-life examples of impact are critical. They want to see the impact of their support in a tangible way. Failure to do so will most likely result in an organization losing them as a supporter.

…But There’s a Right Way To Do It
Email is millennial donors’ preferred communication method, with 93 percent of respondents favoring it for receiving information from organizations, per re: charity. The printed newsletter you mail quarterly to donors? They don’t read it. The Christmas card you send at the end of each year? They don’t want it. In fact, they think it’s a waste of money. Communication through email, social media and your website? Spot on.

They Are Very Influenced by Peers
As previously stated, millennials do a lot of research before supporting a cause, and they know their peers are doing the same thing. That’s why, when a friend or co-worker advocates for a cause, they consider that an endorsement. And with the rise of social media, it’s easier now more than ever to share your voice with your network to support a cause.

…And Suffer From FOMO
It’s not a disease, but FOMO is a concern for millennials. FOMO, or “fear of missing out”, is real. According to Eventbrite, more than 69 percent of millennials experience FOMO when they cannot attend something their friends are going to. Why should this matter to nonprofits? If you market your cause the right way, it could mean big things for your bottom line.

So, what does this all mean to the world of philanthropy? Just that the status quo is changing. Understanding the millennial donor is not something to continue putting off. Incorporating them into what you are doing for other donor segmentations and gaining a better knowledge of donor preferences and responses is critical… and that’s no joke. iBi

Danielle Easton is president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Central Illinois Chapter, and Director of Annual Giving, W. D. Boyce Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Add new comment