Fri, March 07 2014

How to Connect with a New Generation of Donors and Volunteers

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

The Millennial generation—those 80 million folks born roughly between 1979-99—may not be your organization’s largest contributors today, but these “digital natives” are poised to receive the largest transfer of wealth from their Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation parents and grandparents. Nearly $41 trillion is expected to flow from one generation to the next in the decades to come. Yes, Boomers will continue be your fundraising bread and butter over the next few years, but there’s no denying the fact that Millennials will become more important to the long-term future of charitable giving.

Next Generation Donors

For your cause to survive well into the future, you must have a plan for attracting and retaining this cohort of supporters. To do this, you first need to understand and adjust to the fact that Millennials communicate and interact with marketing differently than previous generations. More than any other generation, they rely on digital and mobile technology to connect to friends, family and organizations they care most about. So what does this mean for nonprofits?

Don’t brush Millennials off as non-donors.

Keep in mind that this generation already wields nearly $200 billion in direct purchasing power. Millennials are giving to charity, but not in the numbers or dollar amounts of their older counterparts—yet.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, nearly 40% gave amounts between $1-50, and another 23% gave at $51-100 levels in 2012. Though Millennials may not be ready to give larger individual gifts, there’s an opportunity to raise more over time, as 52 percent of the Millennial Impact Report’s respondents said they’d be interested in monthly giving.

While Millennials are giving at different levels, they’re also giving in different ways. Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving report underscores the importance of these key generational differences in communication and giving preferences. It’s no surprise that Millennials overwhelmingly prefer to give online, and that direct mail and phone solicitation are unpopular with this group of young donors. These donors are more likely to give via mobile or through social media, as they see these methods as being a core way of interacting with the world. If ever there was a reason to segment your donors and match them with the appropriate giving channel, here it is.

Beyond how they donate, where the money goes is equally important to Millennial donors. Being able to quickly and clearly illustrate impact is key to activating these givers. Tell them exactly what will happen as a result of their donation and give them the proof to back it up. Only 22 percent of Millennial donors said they would be likely to give an unrestricted gift to a charity, according to The Next Generation of American Giving report. This makes it even more crucial to tie all donations to a measurable impact to gain trust.

To Millennials, the experience matters.

No matter the message, if your outreach doesn’t meet their expectations in terms of accessibility and authenticity, your organization’s results of engagement with this group will suffer. Some things to remember:

Share and connect.  The most frequent action taken by Millennials on a nonprofit’s website was connecting with the organization via social media. So, plan to use your website as a hub for younger donors to find ways to connect with you.  But note that these supporters prefer to share information about the causes that resonate with them, not specific organizations.

Giving is social. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report states that over 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money on behalf of causes that matter to them. This means these young supporters can be powerful fundraising messengers, because they love to spread the word. They like to find out about ways to get involved from their peers online, so make sure you’re equipping them with the right tools to share your message and volunteer opportunities with their networks.

Authenticity is paramount. Trust and transparency are increasingly important for all donors, and Millennials are no exception. They have grown up questioning the media and messages presented to them—they are used to having equalizing platforms like social media at their fingertips. Being upfront about your mission and how you accomplish it will win you favorable ratings from this group, as will having an authentic, personal approach to the way you communicate with supporters. No faceless messages devoid of personality, please!

Involvement, not just awareness. Millennials are interested in true involvement with the causes they support. They view themselves as collaborators, and not just hands-off donors. The NextGen Donors report sees this interest as this generation’s way of developing a sense of self while building their philanthropic identities.

Engagement, then participation. Millennials, like most other donors, don’t want to be bombarded with messages or endlessly solicited. As this generation is likely to tune out irrelevant messages much more quickly, it will be critical for nonprofits to focus on building a relationship with younger supporters and making the case for involvement before asking for a commitment.

How are you planning to build relationships with your Millennial donors and volunteers?

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