Millennials don't care about your nonprofit

Written by
Max Friedman

Millennials don't care about your nonprofit

Written by
Max Friedman

Welcome to Givebutter. Founded by 3 college students caught somewhere between the Millennial generation and Gen-Y. Like many of our peers, we rarely, if ever, give money to nonprofits, student organizations, etc. Why? Well, it's complicated.

  1. We're broke: Anyone five years out of college or younger does not have much in the way of disposable income. It's not a generational issue, it's an age issue. Young people just don't have money lying around to give to charity, and if they do, it's most likely in the form of pocket change or small bills. 

    What you can do about it:
    Focus on small, but meaningful donations. Set impacts that directly correspond with the amount donated- Example: Donate $10 to help a child receive clean drinking water for a week Incentivized giving (donate $20 and get a chance to win xyz)

  2. We don't trust charities: It's no secret that millennials are hyper-conscious of nonprofits' overhead. If a development officer at a nonprofit tries to solicit a younger donor, the first question that will pop in their head is: why would I donate to pay your salary? It's a cynical thing to say, but sadly the case. Millennials want to know that 100% of their donation is going towards the nonprofits' mission, and every percentage point less than that hurts. 

    What you can do about it:
    Be as transparent as possible, millennials are savvy and do their researchIf possible, follow Charity: Water's model and have major donors cover overhead so that smaller donors can achieve 100% impact. Don't be afraid to overshare on social media, highlight success stories.

  3. We want to see our impact: Unfortunately for nonprofits, the days of raising unrestricted funds are going to start fading fast (if they aren't already). Young donors want to see the direct impact of their donation. You want me to support economic development in Africa? Ok. You want me to support entrepreneurs in Johannesburg? Even better. You want me to help Hakim start a clothing business in Johannesburg? Here's $100. 

    What you can do about it:
    Make it easy for donors to see their impact, concretely and directly. Show and prove impact through images, videos, and stories.

  4. We don't see you: Nonprofits do some of the most amazing, important work in the world. Don't underestimate the value of investing time and resources into social media, content production, and grassroots efforts to get young people's attention. Charity Water's Twestival, the ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge, and HRC's red equal sign for marriage equality are all examples of organizations successfully reaching younger audiences where they already are. 

    What you can do about it:
    Think outside of the box. Create campaigns that will engage younger donors and encourage them to tell their friends about your organization and cause. Advertise. Brand recognition is a powerful decision factor for consumers. The same goes for donors. Why would anyone donate to an organization they have never heard of?
  5. We don't relate to you: It's critically important for nonprofits to have a strong and meaningful brand. There is nothing that young people like more than aligning themselves with sexy brands, and it's important for millennials to feel like the cause they are giving to understands them on a fundamental level. 

    What you can do about it:
    Find creative ways for millennials to look good by sharing your nonprofit. Millennials love nothing more than telling their friends about the social good they are doing, make it easy and fun for them to do so!

  6. We want to be engaged: There's a lot of conflicting design advice out there that argues young donors want simple, frictionless experiences such as a one-page or one-click checkout. This might be true for millennials shopping on Amazon, but the opposite is true for charitable giving. Millennials are already strapped for cash, so when they do give, it's a big deal. 

    What you can do about it:
    The number one reason why someone gives is simply because they are asked. Encourage donors to share on social and directly reach out to their networks. See: Movember. Don't make social media an afterthought. Simply having a Facebook and Twitter account isn't good enough Make the most of this opportunity by encouraging social sharing and don't be afraid to ask for a follow on social media.

  7. We aren't solicited: Nonprofits have given up on our generation before they started trying. If you ask a millennial when the last time was that they were solicited by an organization to give, chances are they would have a hard time answering this question. Why? Because nonprofits don't solicit younger, millennial donors. Their focus is in targeting their older, traditional donor demographic through direct mail and other means. 

    What you can do about it:
    Just do it. Believe it or not, younger potential donors would be flattered to hear from you Younger people understand younger generations better. Investing in a younger workforce and marketing team is extremely important to successful outreach. Invest in younger donors. Invest in ads and outreach on platforms they already use, such as Facebook or Instagram

TL;DR: Young donors are needy. We're also hard to reach and don't have much to give. But the fact remains, young people are quickly replacing the old, and technology is here to stay. Nonprofits that start thinking about these issues now will have a significant advantage over those that don't. Young people are the light of our society, the conversation starters at the dinner table, and capturing their attention today will pay enormous dividends over time.