Next-Generation Giving Millennial Engagement in Charitable Contributions Vicki Brannock
E ach generation in American history inevitably inherits a defining set of traits, characteristics and labels that not only identify them as a group but also separate them from the ones before. It isn’t surprising that many of these adjectives and phrases— usually coined by the previous generations— include some less-than-adulating terms. Millennials are no exception. Words like special , sheltered and overconfident have often been used to characterize those born roughly between 1980 and 2000. And it’s understandable, considering this generation was at the forefront of the youth-protection movement, due to events like Columbine— and the “everyone gets a trophy”phenomenon imposed by over-sensitive parents. However, no three words have been used more often than me , me and me to describe America’s largest and most ethnically diverse group that now comprises almost one third of the U.S population. Reinventing Philanthropy With a moniker like “the me, me, me gen- eration,” it would make sense for fundraising professionals and nonprofits to focus on more promising prospects. After all, it’s the Baby Boomers who have proven over the years to be the most generous generation, but here’s where things become interesting: Millennials are the first generation to come of age with the Internet, cable TV and cell phones, and are the most educated generation to date, with 61% college educated—a significant in- crease from the Boomers who boasted 46%. Technology has not only provided them with
Millennials certainly are not yet contributing charitably like their parents did, but organizations would do well to cultivate this technology- raised generation now by adapting to the new and virtual relationship- building paradigm they have unwittingly initiated. They not only have strength in numbers—at a projected 80 million they are twice the size of Generation X—but they also boast a potential sharing power unlike any other generation before them. Several reports, including one issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, suggest that by 2017, Millennials will spend some $200 billion annually and more than $10 trillion over the course of their lifetimes. Slow and Steady Though studies may show Millennials attend church less often and place less value on clocking in long hard hours at work each week, they are adventurous, passionate about the world around them and are more likely to be directly engaged with how and where they make charitable contributions, rather than letting their money go into an ambiguous black hole. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report by consulting firm Achieve, some 87 percent of Millennials donate to charity but drastically depart from their Boomer parents who trusted organizations like the United Way to disperse their donations as they saw fit. Millennials want to be in charge and discover causes on their own, followed by a slow and steady climb to a solid connection,
instant gratification and access to informa- tion, but also invaluable tools, which they have utilized to create some of the world’s largest social media and content-sharing platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) including revolutionary crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Millennials are the new fun- draisers. Peer to Peer Kickstarter, which tracks its progress daily through analytics, has raised more than $1.5 billion for some 78,000 projects since its inception in 2009, and they aren’t the only game in town. Dozens more are following close behind,which may be proof enough that online, peer-to-peer fundraising is the new norm and it’s here to stay. Effectively tapping into the e-conscious world of Millennials, however, is a challenge for traditional organizations, and few have had success that rivals sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Crowdrise. With a reality that is virtually driven, Millennials tend to place more trust in recommendations from Facebook friends and Instagram followers than in a ubiquitous organization, and are more likely to give to a cause when the group consensus is “yes.” Nonetheless, don’t forget the invitation—one that sounds more like “the pleasure of your company is requested” rather than a direct ask void of proper social-media etiquette.