How Millennials are Disrupting the Rules of Charitable Giving

August 28, 2017  |  Tamalyn Powell

Education  |  Thinking Big

Marketers and fundraisers both know it is critical to understand our audience in order to deliver an effective and actionable message. This is why so much time has been spent in recent years analyzing and researching the purchasing and giving habits of Millennials – a group that is 80 plus million strong, and as of this year has the largest buying power of any generation in the US.

BVK recently participated in the Big10 Development Conference and hosted a session on understanding how this group thinks, how they make buying decisions in general, and how they are disrupting the rules of charitable giving. If Big10 fundraisers doubted the power of this generation before this conference, those doubts have likely been removed.

Some of the insights we shared included the fact that Millennials make decisions, spend and give differently than previous generations. But, that’s not all. Experts also warn that philanthropy without a smart digital platform for the Millennial audience – not just for making the actual donation, but for empowering them as a community of givers – will be left behind.

So how do we best engage this large and powerful group of do-gooders? Here are some key takeaways:

5 Rules of Engagement for Millennial Givers

  1. Be flexible – Let Millennials participate in your cause. Get them involved. Why turn away positive momentum and commentary just because it’s not the way you’ve always done things?
  2. Tap into their power – Millennials don’t give to organizations. They support causes. And, since much of their waking time is spent connected to social media channels, they are able to connect and influence thousands of their peers for your cause. Messages from them are more influential than messages from your organization.
  3. Ease into it – Create a pathway to a relationship – don’t go for the “ask” right away. Contributions of their time and influence are just as critical and valuable. And, Millennial volunteers often turn into loyal, consistent “investors.”
  4. Inspire them and make it easy to give – If a Millennial hears a song they like, they download it – immediately. The same is true for how they give. So make sure that you have a super easy way for them to do that online (i.e., from their phone) while they are inspired without using too much of their precious time.
  5. Stay in touch – An annual holiday thank you card or giving report is no longer going to be enough for this group. They expect real-time updates when a milestone is reached, where their money went and what impact it actually made. And remember to thank them – they like to be acknowledged for their participation in the cause.

One thing is certain. Fundraisers that fail to acknowledge, understand and embrace the needs and characteristics of this generation (and likely the generation to follow) will have a difficult time making a successful appeal to this group of tomorrow’s big spenders.

If you would like to learn more about what makes this group tick, and how to activate them to participate in your cause, click download below to get our “Millennial Manual – Fundraising Edition.”



is a Senior VP, Group Account Director at BVK

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