The Millennial Donor Perspective – Engage Me!
By Kathleen Wagner, philanthropic advisor
I’m a millennial donor and I’m begging to be engaged. You see, we’re not all the self-entitled brats that the media says we are. We’re actually quite a charitable generation, with 84% of us giving charitably in 2014. But times have changed and so have our motivations for giving. We might not support what our bosses support, and we may not give where our parents used to give. We are giving to what moves us, and what we want our world to be like for our children one day. We’re emotionally driven.
I’ll be honest – I’m not going to be your largest donor. With the student loan debt that followed my master’s degree and the first years of home ownership, that just isn’t going to happen. But I might be your biggest donor one day. As I continue to grow in my career, I think a lot more about charitable giving and the impact that I want to leave in this world. Did you know that millennials represent the single largest generation in history? In 2015, rumor has it that millennials will have more buying power than our parents, the Baby Boomers. So what does this “emotional” and purposeful giving look like and how can you engage us?
- I give to my church. They “ask” every week and I like what they have going on. Simple as that.
- I give to the camp I grew up going to. They hardly ever ask, but they don’t have to. They’ve given experiences of a lifetime to many kids and teens, and so when we have the ability to give—we do!
- You’ve probably also heard that millennials are putting off having kids too. But you know what we do have? Pets. My husband and I give to our local animal shelter because we love our shelter dog.
We want to give back, but you’ve got to speak our language. So what can you do?
#1 – Make sure we know that we matter. Court us lovingly. We like to know we’re doing a good job and we’re on the right track. So THANK US in a meaningful way for our gift. Online giving has been around for a while and an automated email doesn’t make me feel like I helped. On the other hand, a personal thank you is just the ticket.
#2 – Millennials are looking for an emotional connection when it comes to giving. Give us volunteer opportunities wrapping Christmas gifts for those in need or reading to children at the library. We will be more inclined to give when we can relate that donation to specific people or places. Whether or not you use that donation for that specific family becomes less relevant—we’ve seen your program in action and we know that it works. So we want to give you money. Did you hear that? We WANT TO GIVE away our money that we probably don’t even have a lot of. YET.
#3 – Don’t bother with mail. When we get something in our mailbox asking us to give, we throw it away. The only things that we get via snail mail are bills that we hate. Those things are expensive to make, and unless they’re really dynamic, we don’t want them.
#4 – Help us share. We want to be proud of our donation—we want to tweet on Twitter and share on Facebook about the cause that we’re proud to give to. Remember, we like to show people how awesome we are. We’re selective about our online sharing, and showing something good we did is always on the top of the list. So give us the chance to give to your organization. Be legitimate and willing to accept pledges of any size. And give us an outlet to share about what we just did, so that we can tell our friends how awesome we are (and thus, how awesome you are). Chances are, they’ll want to be equally as awesome and you’ll get more pledges.
I am extremely proud of the organizations I give to, and I want to be able to support them even more in the future. I think most millennials would agree. Be patient with us. We’re not unapproachable at all – in fact, we want to be engaged. You all just need to speak our language and do it fast. If you don’t get millennials invested in what you’re doing, soon, you might not be doing anything at all.