Special Report: Millennial Giving – Part 2
How does Millennial giving affect the broader philanthropic environment?
In Part 1, we looked at who Millennials are and started to understand more about their giving habits. In this second part, we’ll find out what nonprofits can learn from Millennials’ giving priorities, and how that’s changing the way other people give.
Perry Davis Associates brought together a panel of experts on Millennial Philanthropy. All three panelists agreed with what The Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report outlines as a distinct set of priorities for charitable giving:
- Real-time feedback
- Measurable impact
What Millennials are looking for
Ben Kirshner – Founder and Board Chair of Elite SEM, the Digital Marketing company – encourages his mostly-Millennial employees to engage with philanthropy in an active way. In an employee survey at Elite SEM, more than 60 self-identifying Millennials were asked about what turns them on or off when making a charitable gift.
There was agreement across the board:
- Millennials want to see donations going to the cause, not to marketing or to top officers
- They expect an engaging, easy-to-navigate website
- They need easy ways to donate online or in-app
- Donation impact is visible on a personal level
- Impact needs to be shown as quickly as possible
Several positive keywords were common among responses: “legitimacy”, “transparency”, “trust”, “first-hand”, “resonant” and “passionate”.
Of the negative keywords, “scam”, “pushy”, “guilt”, “unclear” and “aggressive” were the most common.
From this survey, we see that Millennials who engage in philanthropy thoughtfully value trust and personal meaning over urgency and high-volume communication.
Millennials have a distinctly entrepreneurial spirit that pervades much of how their lives are structured; passion, values and benefits are key factors in how they shop, work and measure relationships, too. Likewise, accountability is a major guiding concept. Millennials are held to these sorts of standards in life, work and more. So is it any surprise that they expect the same standards from the causes they support?
These characteristics we associate with Millennials also inform good philanthropy among other generations, too. Crafting strategies and campaigns around Millennials’ priorities is also good practice for reaching older donors.
How nonprofits can meet these needs
Brett Hagler – CFO at New Story, a charity building homes in the developing world using a 100% transparent funding model – says his organization has been successful among Millennial donors, for the same reasons Elite SEM’s employees laid out. How does New Story manage to stay on top of transparency, feedback and impact reporting?
As Brett tells it, when he was donating to charities he was fed up with some key elements of “traditional” fundraising. In answer to those complaints, he identified three areas of focus:
- Digital, easy experience
- Opportunity, not guilt
Donor-centric marketing is more effective for retention and cultivation than pure volume. A key way to keep donors at the center of a campaign is making philanthropy an opportunity rather than an obligation. Your cause should be a way for donors to “be the change”, through your services. Your organization becomes the tool with which the donor builds the better world they want to see. So for a New Story donor, $6,000 builds a new house – a visible result of donations.
Simplifying how donors interact with you also forces you to simplify your messaging and really crystallize your strategy. You’ll also feel the benefits of a more transparent system when it comes to reporting, writing grant applications, and filing your IRS 990’s.
How Millennials are affecting philanthropy at large
Sharna Goldseker is Executive Director at 21/64, a nonprofit specializing in multigenerational engagement in philanthropy and family enterprise. She has been observing the positive effects Millennials are having on the way we all perceive and engage with philanthropy. By connecting the 21-year-olds with the 64-and-overs, both generations benefit from the perspective of the other, to build a longer-lasting sense of impact. According to Sharna’s research and experience, this is also improving the way philanthropy is conducted in general.
Boomers looking for ways to leave a legacy of impact or service are turning to causes and organizations they feel are representative of the lifelong values they wish to see perpetuated. By engaging their children and grandchildren in their philanthropic efforts, older donors extend their impact beyond their own lifetimes and give the new generation a sense of continuity. The younger philanthropists bring their altruism and optimism, as well as their savvy assessment abilities, which contribute to the choices and the eventual arc of their parents’ and grandparents’ legacies.
Millennials’ priorities are becoming the priorities of older donors, which is for the better. It is making for a nonprofit sector that values honesty and accountability, which makes nonprofits more effective in delivering the services and programs that build a better world. Being more Millennial-friendly is a new way to be an organization with greater impact.
Tips: Trust is Key
For a generation willing to pay $12 for avocado toast, nonprofits also need to suit their discerning tastes. Millennials’ concerns are making donors of all ages more aware – and more vocal – about trust. How can your organization earn that confidence?
Transparency means there is a clear, documented path between a donation and a real-world action/impact. This often takes the form of earmarking funds for specific programs or measuring the dollar-to-impact ratio. While this might complicate your fundraising strategy and administrative process, putting in this extra effort demonstrates how donor participation achieves a specific, visible goal.
Social media allows you to reach donors and supporters immediately, in real-time, which is great. But what are your aims for using this powerful tool? One size does not fit all. Do your communications build your relationship with donors beyond simply “touching” or reporting to them? How are you making your cause part of the fabric of your donors’ lives? What is it about Social Media that is important to your organization’s goals?
In measuring impact, you should be able to show benchmarks that are relevant to your donors. Metrics that show how many staff you have is not as compelling as showing the number of people receiving your services. Using photos (or at least graphs) helps ground statistics in the real world, and ties the numerical value to an emotional one.
Prioritizing a donor’s time and effort is a key way to make them feel appreciated, and more confident in giving again. Make the process of donating as simple and secure as possible. Where there is a cost ensuring security or ease of use, the payoff is in donor confidence. Donors are more likely to give again, or to sign up for recurring gift programs, if they are confident that their information is secure and their donation is meaningful.
In Part 3 of our special report on Millennials, find out what practical steps and technologies you can use to engage donors who prioritize trust, accountability, and impact. Read Part 1 of this series here.
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