Baby boomers contribute 43% of all charitable donations in the U.S., and as this demographic ages, attracting younger donors to your not-for-profit organization is crucial to its long-term success.
While younger donors may not have the same resources as older and wealthier donors, acquiring and engaging new supporters can help boost giving. Beyond immediate benefits, involving new demographics allows you to establish a donor base with the ability to grow alongside the organization into its future, ensuring longer term success and sustainability.
Reasons for the Disconnect
Millennials are critiqued for donating less than previous generations. But part of the reason they don't contribute to not-for-profit organizations is that they have less to give.
According to a study from the Federal Reserve, millennials are less financially well-off than boomers were at the same age, with "lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth." These differences are primarily due to unfavorable labor and credit market conditions, increased student loan debt and a lack of affordable housing.
In addition, when millennials donate, they tend to prefer crowdsourcing over not-for-profit organizations. Transparency and accountability are paramount to this generation, and crowdfunding meets their needs by providing specifics about the people receiving and benefiting from a specified donation. So while millennials make up only 11% of traditional charitable giving, they represent roughly 33% of caused-based crowdfunding, demonstrating where their giving priorities lie: in spaces where their dollars can offer immediate, transparent benefits.
How to Attract Younger Generations to Your Cause
With the right approach and understanding of how young people interact with organizations, it is possible to attract these new supporters.
Connect with their Passion for Activism
Not-for-profit organizations can connect to younger generations’ passion for activism by leveraging their willingness to invest in positive change.
According to the United Way, the issues that matter most to Gen Z include the environment, mental health, racial and gender equity, gun control and economic concerns. You don't have to change your organization's mission, but engaging the next generation of donors requires figuring out how to align organizational messaging with their values and connect to their desire for immediate change. That brand-alignment is timely, too, as organizations look toward environmental, social and governance programs and corporate social responsibility initiatives to ensure compliance, mitigate risk and communicate value to stakeholders, who increasingly desire open communication about these facets of business.
Young people are also often willing to donate time to causes, even if they don't have the financial resources to donate cash. According to the British Heart Foundation, people under the age of 35 are more likely to have volunteered for charities than any other age group.
Engage Online and Offline
To successfully engage young donors, not-for-profit organizations must connect with them online and offline. This means having mobile-friendly websites and social media profiles that highlight your mission and encourage donations or volunteering. Additionally, consider forefronting mobile-friendly donation options that allow young people to quickly make a gift through text message or online forums.
Because young donors prioritize hands-on engagement, you can also appeal to young donors by hosting events where they can interact with your organization in person. Creating these opportunities for connection helps build relationships with the younger generations that will ultimately lead to more donations and support for your cause.
Create Compelling Messaging to Pull Young Donors In
One way to craft messaging specific to the needs of younger donors is focusing on the specific issues or problems you're trying to solve rather than the messaging about the organization itself. For example, instead of an appeal that asks donors to "end food insecurity," ask for "$20 to provide 80 nutritious meals to children in the community."
Use storytelling techniques to highlight the tangible outcomes of your organization's work. In videos and case studies, share images and stories of the individuals and communities your organization has helped. This allows younger donors to readily see the impacts of their donations.
It's also essential to clearly articulate the actions you want prospective young donors to take. Whether you want them to text a donation, attend an event, share your social media post or volunteer their time, make your ask clear to encourage participation.
Young donors want to see the direct impact of their involvement, so not-for-profit organizations must ensure that they effectively communicate the impact of donor contributions and demonstrate how donations make a difference through data-driven metrics.
One common mistake organizations make is confusing events with impact. For example, young donors dare less likely to connect with how many events you held or the number of volunteer hours invested — they want to know how those events and hours improved lives.
With the right approach and understanding of how young people engage with organizations, your not-for-profit can successfully attract new donors from millennials and Gen Z. This will help cultivate a base of support that will allow you to continue your important work for years to come.
For more information on diversifying your donor base, connect with our experts.
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