How Millennials Are Changing Philanthropy
Millennials will be the largest demographic in the American workforce by 2020.
There has been plenty written about the influence millennials are having on the workplace. Overall, they desire work-life balance and are increasingly unsettled about the future. In the same way that they are reshaping the workplace, they are reinventing philanthropy.
Today, millennials make up about one-third of the workforce. Gen X is another third and baby boomers are a shrinking 25%. By 2020, millennials will represent more than half of all workers. That’s a monumental and rapid shift — and it’s all taking place right now.
As millennials begin to increase disposable income, pay student loans and acquire patterns and behaviors that are more likely to last into their forties and fifties, what was once a finicky, trend-receptive audience is becoming more grounded, regular and even predictable.
It’s important for organizations to recognize the differences in how millennials behave, what their preferences are and why these qualities give them an outsized influence on the philanthropic space -- and the workplace. Millennials are receiving thousands of messages each day and getting involved in multiple-cause pursuits. They are also distracted, multitasking and frustrated by the status quo. Marketers speaking to them must adjust their messages to meet these conditions.
Millennials are more likely to give than other generations.
In 2014, 84 percent of millennial employees gave to charity and 70 percent of them donated more than an hour to a charitable cause, according to the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report: 2015 (download required). Sure, boomers and Gen Xers are giving more in terms of dollars ($732 and $1,212 per year, respectively), but at an average of $481 given each year, millennials are quickly gaining influence over the philanthropic space (source: The Next Generation of American Giving, 2018).
Considering that millennials earn less than their counterparts did and are often riddled with student debt, years away from owning a car or a home, these numbers are significant. If people become more generous over their lives and are more likely to give if their parents give, millennials will become the most generous generation in history. One can easily imagine this reaching 95 or even 100 percent by the time they reach midlife.
As millennials double as a working population, their share of charitable donations is likely to reflect that growth. Organizations should be doubling down on their efforts to connect with and reach millennials.
Why are millennials giving at higher rates than their predecessors? This likely has to do with a number of factors. Among them, the digitization of the world as we know it, the rise of mobile and online banking and the ease with which individuals can learn about and share issues with others. This generation grew up with smartphones, Snapchat and Facebook. They believe in their responsibility to create change and are optimistic about their abilities. With the ease of sharing came the ease of giving, as well as the expectation to do so. Young people are finding community through causes and activating each other as they do.
What about the wealth transfer?
So, what if the economy crashes? Or the historical trends somehow prove us wrong? To that, I point to the massive wealth transfer. Thanks to the entrepreneurship of a few of their baby booming parents, millennials are on the cusp of a massive $30 trillion wealth transfer — a more significant wealth transfer than we've ever experienced.
Some experts believe this transfer will lead to a golden era for nonprofits that could last decades. These are the individuals who've grown up giving and believe strongly that they can affect change in the world. But this can only happen if nonprofits meet this audience where they are.
Knowing the vast majority of millennials are already giving, it’s easy to understand the importance of this generation when it comes to philanthropy. It also underscores the critical need for nonprofits to be smarter, employ technology, track and share their impact and communicate effectively with them. These organizations must focus on millennials as lifetime potential donors, even if the amounts they are giving now are smaller than their parents.
How can nonprofits connect with millennials?
So, you're ready to engage millennials. Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing marketing for this audience:
• Ask for more than money. Millennials will share your cause. They will sign up and volunteer their time for fundraising, crowdfunding or fieldwork. Value the whole interaction with young donors. This prepares them (and you) for long-term relationships that run much deeper than a single donation.
• Tell stories. The space is crowded. Millennials receive millions of messages each week. Telling a story will motivate them more than facts. Rather than saying how many people are affected by X, show how someone has been affected and benefited from the work you are doing. Personalize it.
• Keep it simple. Your cause should be tweetable and repeatable. Avoid overcomplicating your message and stick to the high points. Is your goal to end poverty? Say that. We know that you are working on complicated issues with nuances that are critical to what you do. So do millennials.
• Communicate urgency. The first thing potential donors ask is: Why does this matter to me now? Getting urgency across in your message is essential. It might take years or a lifetime to complete your mission, but you can show your audience where their time and money will go right now. Will they give five people clean water? Provide shelter for ten? Say that.
There has been so much said and written about millennial entitlement, apathy and indifference toward brands. But millennials are the furthest thing from a passive audience. In fact, it's their very obsession with progress that the philanthropic community has been waiting for. A generation of people who believe life can and should be better: the impact generation.
By Justin Wheeler | Published by Forbes | Read the article