Living in the age of millennials and charitable giving

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At the forefront of a world of selfies, staged Instagram photos and Snapchat stories are tech-savvy millennials. This generation, born in the ‘80s and ‘90s, is at times described as impatient, entitled and rude — but in fact, recent studies have indicated that millennials care a great deal about the world outside of themselves, and they are more optimistic about their ability to impact society in a positive way compared to previous generations.

According to the Millennial Impact Report by research group Achieve, 84 percent of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70 percent spent about an hour volunteering for their cause of choice.

As we continue to learn how to appeal to the average millennial, let’s take a closer look at how businesses, marketing professionals and charitable organizations can attract support from this generation through the lens of their charitable donation habits, and the differentiators between millennials and other generations.

Millennial charitable giving habits

Millennial charitable giving habits are stimulated by empathy, influence from their peers, an immediate call to action, and, yes, the social reach of a campaign. Although millennials aren’t known to make huge monetary donations, they do tend to offer their free time to serve as volunteers.

Writer Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times mentioned that millennials are most likely to give when they feel inspired by an organization and when they can see how that organization’s cause directly affects them.

Visualize your Facebook timeline. Have you ever scrolled down your news feed and heard a snippet of Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms of an Angel?” If so, you are well aware of the strong pathos in the gut-wrenching slideshow of suffering ASPCA animals in need. This is an excellent illustration of how to play off millennial charitable giving traits and provide motivation to click the nearest hyperlink to learn more about how they can help contribute.

Research shows millennials largely favor donating to children’s charities followed by places of worship, and health-related causes. They primarily give in two different ways: on impulse, such as donating a dollar when prompted at the checkout counter, or by focusing on local causes, such as building shelter for the homeless.

Lastly, millennials prefer to give via online and mobile giving over any other channel.

Expectation vs. reality

While many believe this generation is always looking down at a screen or texting, they actually devote a lot of time to community involvement unlike Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Millennials like to see the true benefit of their donation and choose to donate more of their time by volunteering instead of providing monetary funds, as 80 percent of millennials (in America) are cash-strapped and, or paying off student debt.

Other generations tend to think and believe that millennials would rather shop online for hours and instant message their friends; however, it has been suggested that, “millennials show a greater likelihood to give to children’s charities, human rights organizations, and international development causes than any other generation,” as stated in the San Francisco Chronicle.

It also states that if millennials had to choose their preference, organizations would find that a majority of this population would choose to participate in retail and workplace giving, and prefer one-touch donating capabilities that make it easier to donate.

They also tend to be more willing than their counterparts to participate in charitable grassroots campaigns and donating via crowdfunding websites.

Recommendations for engaging millennials

If you want to grab the attention of this generation for your cause, remember a few key things:

Always provide a level of transparency through your storytelling. Millennials like to know they are truly making a positive impact on the world and tend to immediately be turned away if the campaign is missing those fundamentals.

Channel your organization’s key messages to create compelling content and boost awareness of your campaign on social platforms. Engaging content can help attract and retain your millennial audience, as well as other audiences.

Include easy-to-donate capabilities to your campaign, such as a cause-based crowdfunding site.

Showcase the impact of a donation at all levels, including volunteerism, so you’re sure to draw millennials in.

Brian Cute
Brian Cute, CEO of Public Interest Registry, assumed this leadership position in 2011, bringing to the role more than 13 years of experience in the Internet and communications industry. As CEO, Brian oversees an $80M nonprofit organisation whose employees are devoted to providing people and organisations around the world with an online identity – through management of the .org and .ngo domains – and by supporting efforts to ensure the internet remains a resource for all. To help nonprofits and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) communicate their stories to donors, Brian travels globally to meet with NGOs to understand how Public Interest Registry can support them in terms of technology infrastructure and online communications strategy.