Millennial Donors are already here

Yesterday, some exciting and brand-spankin’ new research was released by Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates on giving by millennial donors.  Beth Kanter shared some key findings, but what does it mean for you, your organization and it’s efforts? Millennial donors aren’t ‘coming soon’ – they’re already here.

1. Cause still comes first

The results are clear that the giving of millennial donors is primarily impacted by the compelling nature of the cause.  This is a generation that is bombarded by texts, tweets, email, mobile game ads, etc. They get thousands more messages a day than people used to and they have honed their ability to block what doesn’t matter – but more importantly, focus on what DOES.  Take steps to make sure you are putting compelling stories in front of all donors, but especially millennials.

2. Peer-to-peer prevails

Several parts of the study highlight the importance of peers, both in their giving trends and their motivation to take action.  Similar to capital campaigns, I think the power and X factor in recruiting millennial donors lies in the peer-to-peer efforts and the race is on for CRM systems and 3rd party sites to develop and capitalize on this trend. At the recent AFP Conference (where I was live blogging) I was in awe at the growth of 3rd party social fundraising sites.  First Giving (called Just Giving in the UK) has been a staple go-to option but the rise of well-designed and more social start-ups StayClassy and Fundly will give them a run for their money. As will those built by CRM systems Convio, eTapestry, Blackbaud and others. I’m working with StayClassy now for a campaign in a couple weeks – I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Engage with Trusted Leadership

One of the findings I found most interesting was the millenial donors’ need to have a connection to the organizational leadership.  CEO roundtables used to be only for high-level, seasoned donors.  This generation relies so much on trust, they want access to the leadership now.  Don’t scoff – they feel they deserve it just as much as anyone.  And when you think about the value of their personal network and the megaphone they have online, they might be just as valuable to have at that table than anyone.  Create an associate board or a junior board. Give that board time with your CEO a couple times a year and send them the ‘behind the scenes’ CEO update that usually is reserved for the board or high-level advisors. Engage millenials in your organization in several ways and you’ll see the return.

4. Texts from Miley Cyrus won’t work

The number of respondents who were motivated to give by celebrities was a whopping 2%. In a sneak-peak webinar on Wednesday, Achieve and JGA were quick to point out that it doesn’t mean celebrity endorsement isn’t a valuable marketing tool to get millenials to your website or closer to the cause – it’s just not the magic button to inspire donations.  Neither is texting.  Any question that included it, ‘text’ was quite low on the list, confirming that ‘text to give’ campaigns work best for global natural disasters or quick urgent campaigns for specific efforts. Texting isn’t the preferred method of receiving info or making donations.

Do you agree with the findings? What changes will you make because of them?

(P.S. Want more? Check out the full research overview on April 21 and register for MDS11 with the CASE Foundation – a full day virtual summit on June 22.)

7 thoughts on “Millennial Donors are already here

  1. Good post Nate. I’m struck that your four items, and the major findings from the study, could be true for any generation. If I were to list four factors for giving from the silent generation, for instance, wouldn’t these things be true:

    1. Cause comes first
    2. Peer to peer prevails
    3. Engage with trusted leadership
    4. Texts from celebs don’t work

    I enjoy reading your take as always, but I’m still searching for the “wow” factor or the previously-unknown lesson from the Achieve study. What do you think the biggest distinct takeaway is?

  2. Hi John – you make a good point. One of my biggest take-aways from the study was the heavy reliance on web-search as they way millenials learn about organizations. I would’ve guessed that Facebook would have been the single largest medium that introduced them to causes. To me it says that they are searching for causes to engage with and I need to make sure my organization’s SEO is strong.

    However – I think that the single largest take-away might be to your point. Many are quick to put millenials in a box and pretend they’re an entirely different breed of donor. The reality is, while they have some different preferences, they still carry the overarching characteristics of other generations and thus, many of our traditional fundraising principles will (and should) continue to hold true.

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