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Month: January 2016

Why Millennials don’t give says just as much as why they do.

Why Millennials don’t give says just as much as why they do.

It’s been pretty exciting to watch as the non-profit sector has taken a more vested interest in learning about this new generation of donors.  While there are several groups doing some great research about Millennials and their engagement with the non-profit sector, including Pew Charitable Trusts and 21/64, my personal favorites have been the annual reports released by the Case Foundation, called the Millennial Impact Report.  Each year, the report shines light on a different aspect of Millennial giving, volunteerism, involvement in the workplace, and social impact.  I’m the biggest fangirl of these reports, as they’ve been invaluable to me while I’ve created strategy for various young professional events and initiatives.  And not for nothing, they’ve also often provided crucial hard data that I’ve needed to defend the importance of engaging and investing in this generation now instead of later.

Now, I could spit out pages and pages of facts and figures that I think are interesting from these reports.  After all, the Millennial Impact Report has revealed tons of encouraging data about how often and how much Millennials give to non-profits in a given year.   But today, I want to highlight something that’s equally as important: why Millennials don’t give.  This data, gleaned from over 35,000 participants over a 5-year period, reveals a lot about what motivates Millennials to participate in a cause they believe in, and why non-profits should take heed and respond accordingly.

  • 84% of respondents are most likely to donate when they fully trust an organization
  • 90% of respondents would stop giving if they did not trust an organization
  • 78% of respondents are very likely to stop donating if they don’t know how their donation is making an impact
  • 73% of respondents are very likely to stop donating if the organizations asked for gifts too frequently
  • 72% of respondents are very likely to stop donating if they don’t feel a strong personal connection to the organization

I find these figures particularly compelling for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, it confirms that transparency is hugely important.  That’s not too hard to understand why:  we’re the first technologically fluent generation, growing up with the internet at our fingertips.  There’s virtually no question we can’t virtually get an answer to, and that makes our standards for transparency extremely high.  We want to see dollars translate into direct impact, which is different than generations of donors before us, and we want to be informed investors.  Millennial donors are demanding a level of transparency that non-profit organizations may not be used to, and will continue to challenge the non-profit sector as they become more active constituents.

Another big takeaway from this data is that personal connection is paramount.  Previous research from the Case Foundation has suggested that peer influence is a major driver for Millennials as they get involved in volunteerism and giving for a particular cause, but what seems to be just as important is a personal influence within the organization itself.  To expect that there will always be a staff person that inspires you to give at every organization you donate to may be a little lofty.  However, it’s a compelling argument for organizations to appoint a passionate staff champion, and it’s also a cautionary tale against relying too heavily on just email and social media engagement.

It’s easy to assume that these potential missteps in engaging Millennial donors falls to the non-profit sector to avoid.  I get that, but reading all of this information leads me to a slightly different conclusion.  The way I see it, the onus is really on Millennial donors, as much as it is the responsibility of the non-profits who want their support, to ensure that the lines of communication are fully open.  Sure, non-profits need to hold themselves to a higher standard of transparency, and to some extent I think that’s becoming more common.  But, Millennials, it’s on us too.  Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  1. Show up: If an organization is hosting a local event (for young professionals or otherwise), go to it and start talking to the staff and other donors. Of course, if you can get involved with a young professionals group, that’s ideal, but not all organizations are able to support a full-fledged program just yet.  Get to know what excites other people about the work the organization is doing.
  2. Meet with a staff person: It can’t be overstated how much fundraisers love when someone wants to get involved. Put yourself out there – email someone in the Development department and ask them to meet for coffee, or to refer you to someone working with young donors.  They’ll be thrilled you did.
  3. Do your homework: There are amazing resources online that are free and easy to use that can help you vet organizations. We’ll be talking about how to use these resources more in-depth in future posts, but you can start playing around with them now here and here.  Also, Twitter and Facebook can be a great resource, too.
  4. Know your worth: You’re a young, fresh face who wants to get involved.  If something is bothering you or if you feel you’re being asked to give too frequently, say something.  Chances are, a non-profit may not know how to pivot their “ask” to appeal to a younger crowd, and the feedback will help them.  They want you to be engaged, and no matter what you give, the fact that you participate at all is extremely important, so speak up.



No time like the present.

No time like the present.

Welcome to NextGenerosity!  My name is Julie Judson, and I’ll be your cruise director.  I’m excited you’re here. For several years now, I’ve been passionate about learning as much as I can and talking about how Millennials are changing the way we give.  I’ve had the opportunity to explore my interests in the subject through my professional endeavors and as a volunteer for various organizations.  Needless to say, I’ve learned so much (and I’m still learning all the time), I’ve had countless wonderful conversations, and I’ve developed ideas about how my generation can be effective philanthropists right now.  Recently I began a fellowship to focus on some of these ideas.  The program has encouraged me to iterate on those ideas as often as possible – however scary that can be – and so as a result, this blog was born.

When I sat down to write this first blog post, it occurred to me that I was getting tripped up over what to say.  I kept giving myself reasons not to write it.  There’s the fear of whether or not people would find what I have to say about Millennials and philanthropy interesting.  And there’s the even bigger fear that maybe I won’t really be saying anything new – after all, coverage of Millennials and how we’re living our young lives differently than any generation before us is rampant.  But really, the hardest part of all of this is just getting started.

Perhaps the same could be said for our generation on the topic of giving.  Working as a young fundraiser with young donors, I often hear feedback from the people I talk to (who also happen to be my peers) about their thoughts on philanthropy.  Sometimes they’ll tell me it’s that they don’t want to give because they don’t feel like they know enough about where their money is going.  A lot of the time people tell me they “know” the amount they are able to give won’t make a “real” impact, and so that deters them from giving altogether.  Much of the time, people discuss their own real and legitimate financial concerns, like student loans and rent and trying to save whenever they can for the future.  I also hear things like, “Well, I care about a lot of things, and a lot of organizations serve the causes I’m passionate about, but I don’t know where to focus my support.”

I totally get all of those concerns, and I struggle with the same issues all the time.  But the questions I get from family, friends, and donors I build relationships with inspire me, and indicate (at least to me) that Millennials want to learn more about how they can have an impact, and how they can put their own twist on philanthropy.  I also know that you have to start somewhere, and that’s the whole idea behind this blog.  I hope that this will at the very least be a conversation starter, and maybe inspire someone (or a lot of someones) to start believing that they can start giving now and still have an impact, no matter what they’re able to contribute.

So here’s the value proposition: I will write content that’s interesting and that helps make the idea of philanthropy less lofty and more democratic.  Some of it will be informative, and some of it will be informed by my own opinion.  Like I said before, I’m still learning, too, and so I’ll also be calling on some friends to help me out from time to time, especially when they can offer perspectives that I can’t.  I hope you’ll come visit occasionally or even subscribe if the spirit moves you, share with friends when you like what you read, ask questions that hopefully we can answer, and most importantly: start giving.  There’s really no time like the present.