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The Why & How of Millennial Giving

Monday, March 26, 2018
Guest Writers
Kayla Smith
Stylish young man sits on a ledge in front of graffiti, gazing to the right

We’ve all heard that millennials don’t give to charity. However, it’s not that they don’t give – it’s that they give differently. Understanding why and how is the key to millennial engagement with your nonprofit organization. Here is a values-based approach (why) and practical tools (how) to strengthen your organization’s giving relationship with millennials.

3 why values: authentic inspiration, transparency, and sharing impact

The Millennial Impact Project championed by Achieve provides annual data and analysis on how US millennials have interacted with causes over the last eight years. The 2013 report reveals three meaningful values motivating this generation’s cause engagement:

1. Authentic Inspiration

Millennials value meaningful connections and are more likely to give when moved by an authentic story. Largely, millennials are more driven by belief in a cause than by a specific organization, making it important to tap into the emotions surrounding your cause to stimulate engagement. However, don’t mistake this strategy for being disingenuous. Be real about your cause and it will provoke a sincere desire to help.

Tip: Tell personal stories, share pictures, and feature individuals who have benefited from your services.

2. Transparency

Report! Report! While millennials aren’t lacking in passion, they don’t have as much to give at this point in their lives, given tuition fees, student debt, the rise of youth unemployment (and underemployment), and a higher cost of living. It is critical for millennials to see where their money goes and how their contribution makes a tangible difference. Millennials give, and give again, when they can see and measure their influence. Recurring giving matters, so be sure to consider the lifetime value of a donor. Building trust with this generation is a long-term investment in donor retention and future giving.

Tip: Help millennial donors follow their money by sending regular updates about your fundraising campaign’s goal and progress.

3. Sharing Impact

Millennials can be very results-driven. Seeing the evidence of their impact allows them to feel a sense of pride and enthusiasm. This can lead to a domino effect for cause engagement. Let millennials fundraise for you by taking advantage of their social clout and activating peer-to-peer engagement. The more millennials share impact stories on various platforms (and there are so many!), the more others will become inspired by your cause, and be motivated to give.

Tip: Form an impact story with testimonials and photos to show how donations went to a specific project – and don’t forget the social share buttons!

4 fundraising tools: how millennials prefer to give

In order to reach millennial donors, it’s not only important to understand why millennials give, but also how they prefer to give. Here are four giving mediums to consider:

1. Mobile payment services: Mobile-friendly is millennial-friendly. Just about every millennial has a smartphone in their pocket. Mobile fundraising enables more convenient giving.

2. Online & social giving: Undoubtedly, millennials take advantage of the digital revolution. They rely on social media, websites, search engines and instant access to mobile technology. Consider the success of online events such as #GivingTuesday and crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe. Your organization can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media to spread awareness, amplify your message, and encourage peer-to-peer fundraising.

3. Monthly giving: The 2013 Millennial Impact Report found that 52% of millennials are interested in monthly giving. Use this format to produce giving stability by soliciting smaller but more recurring gifts.

4. Birthdays, holidays & special events: More recently, millennials are asking for donations in lieu of gifts for birthdays, end of year holidays and special events. Your organization can benefit from this trend by creating group fundraising plans that facilitate alternative giving.

Embrace change for new opportunities 

Millennials are fearlessly changing the way we go about traditional giving. While their growing influence may bring challenges, it also brings new opportunities. It is important to embrace change. Be flexible, adaptable, and innovative. Engage in dialogue with millennials to further understand why and how they give, and open myriad opportunities for growth in your nonprofit organization. 


About the Author

Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith joined the Imagine Canada team for a summer 2017 position as Assistant, Fundraising Research. She is a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Public Administration. Kayla now furthers her studies at Windsor Law. You can reach her on LinkedIn

Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.

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Submitted by Raghav Mimani on
Great Article. I can 100% relate to this. I too believe that involving millennials in the field of social impact is a must. They bring creativity, innovation and fresh perspective to an organization. According to a study, Millennials are supposed to constitute 75% of the workforce by the year 2025. This makes it extremely important to gain their interests towards social causes, and is true that it can be done by embracing ‘Transparency.’ According to me, Millennial engagement is built upon transparency, and they tend to stay loyal to a brand that is transparent. It is imperative for them to know how their time and money is being spent. I found this article online that entails the method to engage more millennials. https://www.sopact.com/perspectives/the-secret-to-millennial-engagement-in-the-impact-sector

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