Photo by Pearl

The millions of young adults who make up the Millennial generation – the men and women born between the ‘80s and early’ ‘00s – are making their presence felt across many industries. Advertisers have shifted their strategies to meet Millennials’ needs for diversity, social media integration, and mobile-friendly content; restaurants are focusing on “authenticity” and greener, cleaner fare; apparel brands are tying their brand identities to larger giving initiatives and social-good causes.

Those social-good causes are adapting, as well. Millennials are having a profound impact on charitable giving and nonprofit fundraising – creating new norms and expectations that are changing the game across the philanthropic landscape.

Millennials are similar to previous generations in that they’re willing to donate to, help out and volunteer with nonprofits and causes they feel passionate about. Unlike previous generations, however, they want tangible proof that their donations (whether volunteer hours, pro bono services, or financial support) actually make a difference.

Younger donors want specific information about how their donated dollars are applied to drive a positive and measurable impact. According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report,

Millennials’ “passion for the cause – more specifically the need – is what consistently motivates [their] giving.”

Those trends, along with Millennials’ interest in the sharing economy and their increasing demands for data, are forcing nonprofits and the businesses that support them to rethink how they raise funds, conduct campaigns and carry out their missions.

The First Internet Generation
An earlier Millennial Impact Report by The Case Foundation found that Millennials think of donated time, money, networking and professional services as equal activities on the “giving” spectrum, and they often like making smaller contributions first before finally committing to a cause or fundraising campaign. But once Millennials are committed, social factors – including the spillover influence of friends and peers – become key determinants of deeper involvement.

Another factor: Trust and transparency. Raised online, Millennials expect visibility into online transactions and want to see accountability from the causes they support and the brands they patronize: 84 percent of Millennials say they’re most likely to donate when they fully trust an organization.

To succeed in fundraising, nonprofits must respond with strategies that are innovative, inclusive and designed to turn today’s Millennial adults into tomorrow’s donors and philanthropists. Here’s a look at what they should be doing to engage and motivate their future long-term supporters:

  • Deliver the data: Launch fundraising campaigns with very clear and specific goals, including details about the amount of money sought, per-item costs of particular items/services, overhead costs vs. on-the-ground impact, campaign timelines and the specific number of individuals who will receive help. Millennials want to see exactly where their dollars are going and are not satisfied with a nebulous “donation bucket of dollars.”
  • Weave “impact” and “transparency” into their ethos: The key is to make promises and deliver on them – backing up results with clear facts and statistics. Describe problems and challenges clearly, and be specific about how a specific campaign or strategy will solve a problem or address an unmet need. Nonprofit campaigns must have clear goals, create plenty of data and deliver metrics that show progress, results and impact. Just as businesses are held accountable for ROI, nonprofits must show the “return on mission” of their donors’ dollars.
  • Let fundraisers tell stories: Build campaigns on people, not agency objectives or lofty aspirations. Storytelling is a key component of all successful fundraising campaigns. The more a cause-related story resonates as honest, touching, compelling, life-changing, or emotional, the more likely it is to attract supporters who are willing to share it with a network of like-minded individuals and influencers.
  • Make every contribution important: Millennials want to know that their donations, however small, are not lost in a sea of overwhelming need. Charities need to illustrate to donors how small contributions can create a collectively large impact on desired goals and solutions.
  • Update messaging: Position donor giving as akin to “investing in the future” of the community you serve, or as contributing to a “solution” waiting to be realized. Use language that will resonate with Millennials who want to change their world. Remind them that their donations and contributions can help solve problems, improve or save lives, make a positive difference, or create new opportunities where none previously existed.
  • Go digital and mobile: As so-called “digital natives,” Millennials are much more likely to support online crowdfunding campaigns than traditional snail mail fund drives – especially if donating is as easy as a click, swipe or text. Using online tools can also make fundraising and goods procurement more transparent, efficient, and measurable – providing additional benefits to nonprofits who use digital strategies to engage younger donors.

Today, Millennials represent about 25% of the U.S. population and $200 billion in purchasing power. By 2020, they will make up 50% of the American workforce. As their influence grows, nonprofits and businesses will need to deliver high-impact outcomes if they expect to keep Millennials engaged long-term. With a tech-enabled fundraising approach and a focus on the direct, one-to-one value of every donor contribution, nonprofits can be better equipped for a game-changing future of philanthropy.

At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.