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The Valued/Values Generation

In June 2015, I gave a presentation on donor motivations to a group of Bay Area fundraisers, focusing on how Millennials are different from others in their giving preferences and behaviors. The presentation drew on research that Alan and I first did in 2010 for The San Francisco Foundation and the East Bay Community Foundation – It’s Not About You…It’s About Them – a study of attitudes towards giving among a cross-section of Bay Area arts donors. The original study identified segments of donors based on preferences and priorities for giving, but didn’t focus on age. So I dug back into the data to see what there was to find, and discovered some key differences between Millennials and other age groups:

  1. Millennials prefer to give to organizations where they know their gift makes a difference. Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents under 35 strongly agree that they need to see evidence their gift is making an impact, compared to just 31% of respondents 35 and older.
  2. Millennials typically like to (or are only able to) give in small amounts. Over half of respondents under 35 said they are likely to give “small gifts where their gift can make a bigger difference,” compared to just 32% of respondents over 35.
  3. Millennials are more interested in supporting local artists and arts programs that aren’t part of the mainstream. Forty-four percent of under 35-year-olds are very likely to support “individual artists who live in their community,” compared to 26% of 35+ respondents. Additionally, 46% are likely to support “art projects that aren’t part of mainstream cultural institutions,” compared to 23% of 35+ respondents.
  4. Millennials prioritize personal connections when considering contributing to a new cause or organization. Twenty-four percent of those under 35 said they need to know someone personally who has given to the organization, compared to 18% of 35+ respondents; another 25% need to have a personal connection to an artist affiliated with the organization or program, compared to 9% for 35+ respondents; and, 63% need to have a personal connection to the art form, compared to 51% for 35+ respondents.
  5. Millennials are driven by personal values. Seventy-one percent of respondents under 35 feel that “social justice and equal opportunity” and “valuing a diversity of viewpoints” are very important, compared to 62% and 56% of older respondents, respectively.

Additional research from the Millennial Impact Project mirrors many of the findings from the 2010 donor motivations study, particularly those related to the importance of values and passions and the desire for deeper and more personal engagement.

What does all this research mean for arts organizations seeking to cultivate Millennial donors? Here are a few recommendations:

  • Embrace transparency in communicating about your business, your goals, and your financial needs, in an effort to create authentic relationships.
  • Start conversations with the goal of uncovering personal passions and beliefs rather than income level and giving capacity.
  • Spend more time and effort in the initial task of building the relationship with individual donors to set the stage for varying levels of support over the long term.
  • Connect to local advocacy groups, organizations, and artists to expand your network of participants and supporters and increase community engagement, relevancy, and impact.
  • Communicate how a gift creates value in the community, illustrating to younger donors how they can make a difference, even with a small gift.
  • Voluntarily hold yourself accountable; continually revisit, refine, and report on the impact of funded programs and projects, and don’t be afraid to ask donors for their feedback.

Values, community, and personal connection will continue to drive donors’ motivations and giving behaviors, and even more so for younger donors.

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