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Pay Attention to Millennials – They’re the donors of the future…

And of the present, too! My interest in this topic is both personal and professional. I have a “millennial” daughter in her first job out of college, and as I urge her to set aside some of her earnings for charity, the professional part of me wonders, “what organizations will capture her attention and how will they do it?” According to the second annual Millennial Donors Report from consulting firms Johnson Grossnickle Associates and Achieve (Find the executive summary here and the full report here), this generation (defined as 20-35 year olds) are givers-93% of the 2,953 survey respondents from seven nonprofits made a charitable contribution, although most of the contributions were small and spread out among many organizations.

Some of the findings of the study reinforce fund raising principles from way back: the younger generation is most likely to give to a compelling mission or cause carried out by an organization they “trust,” and that trust is often established by a personal connection. Interestingly, celebrity endorsements were a non-starter (motivating only 2%). Volunteerism was high among respondents (79%), and not surprisingly, Millennials are looking to technology for information and engagement. Non-profits need to pay attention to how they fare in web searches, as that is a primary tool for Millennials to learn about potential recipients of their charitable dollars. Most interesting was the finding that although only 49% gave online, 58% would have preferred to give that way, indicating that non-profits are still behind in facilitating giving through technology.

Giving USA and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University have also published a monograph on this subject (Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation, available for purchase here). This study looks at giving trends across different generational groups from the Great Generation to the Boomers to the Xers to the Millennials. Some of its findings (based on 2006 and 2008 data) are considerably at odds with the Millennial donors survey-e.g., it notes that only 33% of Millennials gave and 21.6% volunteered. Nevertheless, the monograph points to a potentially bright future: Millennials and Gen Xers are the most educated generation in history, and the Center’s studies have shown that people with a college degree tend to give $1,900 more annually on average.

Bottom line: cultivate these donors now through multiple personal and electronic engagement strategies in order to build their trust and capture their potential for giving down the road. It’s a long-term investment that will pay off.

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