Optimizing Appeal for Y(ounger) Donors

The holiday season is here and it’s a popular time to give—to family and friends, but also to charitable organizations in the region. During a season when consumers are exploring charitable giving opportunities, organizations may want to enhance their cause-specific campaign. A well-crafted campaign is imperative to attract all donors—especially Millennials.

Millennials, and Millennial-giving activities and trends, have begun to mature in terms of frequency and commitment. The Pew Research Center defined the Millennial generation as those born after 1980; individuals in their 20s and 30s were the first to come of age in the new millennium. Millennials comprise the largest segment of the current global workforce, so organizations need to meet the specific needs and interests of this generation to expand the donor base.

Prior generations have been defined by diverse attitudes and behaviors. Unique experiences shape an era, and in part influence cohort overt behavior such as charitable giving. Millennials are no different. Millennials have matured during an era marked by a rise in popularity, perhaps even scrutiny, of corporate social responsibility. Consequently, research suggests that Millennials are often passionate about causes and socially responsible behavior. This generation has also come of age during a technologically prolific era. Accordingly, they bring new expectations to charitable giving and demand more from organizations. They are motivated to connect, become involved, and create impact.

Millennials often will contribute to causes with which they have a personal connection, both at work and at home. Therefore, it is important to recognize and acknowledge those specific causes. In addition to the personalized connection, this cohort wants feedback on how contributions impacted the organization and its mission. They often want to let others know as well. Whether contributing to a cause via time or money, Millennial engagement may be strong initially but risks diminishing unless the link between giving and associated benefits is apparent. As a result, organizations should cultivate campaigns and projects that are effective at demonstrating how contributions have made a direct impact to the community or an individual’s wellbeing. Millennials are interested in results over reputation and are often inspired by the cause to which they are giving. They may give more readily to one needy individual or group than a larger entity. This may be because it is easier for the Millennial to gauge how a contribution impacts an individual or smaller unit. Accordingly, Millennials have a preference for causes that create impact on a local level.

One of the largest disruptors of charitable giving in the past decade has been technology and the way in which we give and communicate. Since modern communication is technologically driven, organizations are challenged with adjusting to both preference and trends of the newer generation. Millennials are social creatures. As a result, and noted in a recent article by Forbes, organizations are confronted with discovering innovative ways to engage existing and potential donors and volunteers. Social media is an integral part of life for Millennials. Sharing information about daily activities is the norm and charitable efforts are no exception. If an individual is connected to a cause the individual may share that information with others. Organizations have the ability to capitalize on this behavior and increase the spread of information and related awareness by creating well-crafted, easily-shared social media campaigns (i.e. hashtags, photos, video, etc.). As Millennials share their experiences with friends, those individuals are often compelled to become involved. By innovatively tailoring communication strategies, organizations have the potential to connect with new donors and expand their network.

Whether an organization is looking to locate new donors or engage existing ones, the Millennial donor presents both opportunities and challenges. Organizations that take notice of this generation’s unique perception are positioning themselves for long term success. Tailoring existing communications to Millennials involves creating sleek, relevant, and cause-specific marketing materials in electronic mediums ready for sharing. Organizations must promote their cause and tell their stories through meaningful results-oriented narratives. In addition, organizations should offer Millennials a variety of ways to get involved, apart from traditional fundraising, in short or long-term projects lending their own unique knowledge and perspectives. Millennials give of their time and money to make an impact. They expect tangible results, want to know how they have made a difference, and want to share their experiences with others.