Millennial Giving Trends: 2 Insights Fundraisers Must Know About This Generation

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

The Millennial Impact Report is back for 2017 and we wanted to share some great insights from the latest report with you.

This annual research project, conducted by Achieve and funded by the Case Foundation, provides everyone from business leaders to nonprofit professionals a glimpse into what makes the Millennial generation “tick.” It’s a useful tool for virtually anyone that interacts with people born between 1982-the early 2000s.

Through these yearly reports, we’ve learned about Millennial giving habits, political affiliations, interests, communication preferences, and so on.

The first phase of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report tackles a new topic: cause engagement. Researchers asked “Why do Millennials choose to engage in cause movements” and sought to get a handle on the varying reasons for a supporters’ engagement. Of course, it’s a tough, seemingly open-ended topic, but it’s one every nonprofit should have a basic understanding of.

Here are 2 vital takeaways from Phase 1 and how your nonprofit can adapt your strategy to match the unique needs of the Millennial population.

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1. Millennials Are Confused About Cause-Based Vernacular

millennial giving

Finding: We asked interviewees how they themselves would define “cause” and “social issue.” Their answers reflected a lack of consistent understanding of each term.

Here in the world of nonprofits and charities, we’re surrounded by acronyms, slogans, and unfortunately, more than our fair share of jargon. We blurt out our taglines, talk about our “thought leadership” in the industry and how we’re aiming to “leverage” our donor’s money. We discuss our “strategic partnerships” and encourage people to engage with us as we “tackle” “social issues”.

But what does any of that mean? Truth be told, there’s a substantial lack of clarity when it comes to nonprofit language. For example, Phase 1 of the Millennial Impact Report found this common problem:

Several interviewees viewed the label “activist” as requiring a personal connection to an issue. They viewed themselves as advocates or allies. Many interviewees described “activist” in more traditional terms, as someone involved in more intense actions, such as protesting, to effect national or global change.

So how does a Millennial, or any supporter for that matter, connect and engage with your cause without understanding what you’re asking of them? The key here is to work on how we use language to inspire and activate our Millennial audience.

Here are some suggestions to help clarify your message:

  • Use strong, clear calls to action
  • Explain what you mean when you’re asking Millennials to become “activists” or “supporters.” Are you looking for people to canvass the neighborhood for signatures, lobby for relevant local and state legislation, or share your cause of their social media pages? Activism/support means something different to everyone, so you may be turning potential supporters away just because you’re asking them to become a generic “activist”, without clarification.
  • Avoid jargon when possible.

Now’s the time to start focusing on creating a clear, consistent, to-the-point message so people best understand what you want/need them to do to solve greater “social issues” via your “cause.”

2. Millennials Are Concerned With The “Greater Good”

millennial giving

Finding: Millennials we interviewed wanted to give all people – but especially marginalized or disenfranchised individuals or groups – early interventions and opportunities that would ensure increased prosperity later in life.

We now know that Millennials don’t have a good grasp on what we’re trying to get them to do for our “causes,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. In fact, Millennials overwhelmingly care about social issues and supporting causes that benefit the greater good.

One of the most positive findings of this preliminary report is that Millennials feel responsible for helping others, especially those in marginalized populations. Plus, the “social issues” supported by Millennials aren’t limited to their own scope or perspective. Instead, Millennials are interested in assisting the disenfranchised outside their own sphere.

Millennials interviewed expressed a sense of responsibility for all Americans now to increase their cause engagement and expand their willingness to help even those unfamiliar to them.

Per the report, Millennials are most concerned with issues surrounding equality, equity, and opportunity. So if your nonprofit or charity delves into these social issues, then you’re on the right track to gain Millennial support.

Here are a few ways your nonprofit/charity can capitalize on the increasing engagement of Millennials in regard to social issues:

  • Clarify how your local organization has an impact on the greater social issue at-hand.
  • Equate volunteer time/donations/activism efforts to impact. For example, a “$100 donation means XYZ” or “With X number of signatures, we can help promote this particular piece of legislation.”
  • Give your Millennial audience a constant stream of doable action items. Continue to engage them through a variety of engagement opportunities, from social media sharing to personal fundraising.

Millennials aren’t just a subset of your donors, they’re your organization’s future. They are your upcoming leaders, board members, and donors. Therefore, it’s important to understand their interests, desires, and capacity to get involved.

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There’s no time like the present to bring them under your organization’s umbrella!

Stay tuned as we bring your more takeaways from Phases 2 and 3 of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report.

To read our past coverage of the Millennial Impact Report, follow these links:

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