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The Generation that is Breaking Stereotypes and Changing Philanthropy

The millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, have been described by older counterparts as entitled, narcissistic, and even lazy. However, in the past few years, stories have emerged that question this stereotype. Whilst millennials are taking radical steps away from trends of past generations, many new studies have shown that they are interested in making big changes.

Millennial’s unique experiences have given them a strong sense of social responsibility and interest in making a positive impact on their community. Derrick Feldmann, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, says, “We’ve seen (and reported) how much this generation’s social consciousness has influenced our world. Social entrepreneurship has skyrocketed. Corporations have expanded social responsibility and employee giving programs. Government has issued new social issue policies.”

Let’s take a look at the notable traits that make millennials such great prospects for nonprofit organizations.

They are community-driven. As reported in the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, many millennials are driven to get involved locally. For certain causes such as healthcare, education or even civil rights and immigration, millennials tend to try to make an impact they can see in their communities.

They are connected through technology. This is the first generation to have grown up in the digital age and it is no secret that Google and social media have changed the way they connect with others. They are a generation with a global reach that is able to share and receive information on a much larger scale.

They are the largest generation yet. The millennial population has now surpassed the baby boomers generation. Their sheer size, in combination with their ability to connect to individuals globally, makes this generation a force to be reckoned with when they decide to support a cause.

They strategically support causes with a strong desire to see the outcome. Also known as impact giving, this generation is taking more time to research the causes that they are passionate about. Whether they are giving back with donations, volunteering individually or finding a platform where they can be heard as a community they are taking time to think about how to make the biggest impact.

They are generous. They are still a young generation that is overcoming financial struggles, yet over half of millennials make donations to charities. When it comes to volunteering their time, over 80% are actively involved! It is also worth mentioning that this generation is expected to increase their giving in the years to come.

What You Can Do to Effectively Engage Millennials

According to Derrick Feldmann of the Millennial Impact Project, anyone looking to engage millennials should take note that they are focused on changing society for the better, but they are not waiting for approval or participation to get things done. Organizations and fundraisers will have to adjust to these donor’s needs or else risk losing their support. Keep some of these tips in mind as you reach out to this generation of donors.

Ask for Specific Gifts. Some fundraisers have started asking for very specific gifts from millennial donors that make donations feel more personal. For example, buying a certain item from Amazon for a student who doesn’t have the means to purchase this item or giving funds to build a house for a family in need.

Focus on Online Engagement and Giving. This generation has changed not just the way of communication but also the manner of engagement. Older methods of engagement like emails and phone calls may not be totally out of the question, but there is no doubt that thanks to millennials online interactions are increasingly important. These are some of the online initiatives you might want to consider:

  1. Social media-driven campaigns

  2. Encourage social-sharing and social peer-interaction with thoughtful, interest-driven material

  3. Online giving and crowdfunding platforms

  4. Mobile silent auctions and raffles

Try Experience-Based Fundraising Events. Millennials appreciate interactions and involvement, which is probably why events such as University of Georgia Miracle’s 24 hour Dance Marathons have been such a success. This year the organization, run by students, raised over $1.2 million in funds for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with this experience-based events.

Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. Since millennials are very peer-driven they are more likely to get involved (or at least make a one-time donation) if they hear about it from a friend. Using relationship mapping and the trust you have with your existing donors to generate new prospects is an effective way to reach millennial donors.

Start Engaging Millennial’s now. This generation is just coming of age and, though some are still dealing with student debt and entry-level employment, millennials are still giving significant amounts to philanthropic organizations. Millennials on average gave $580 USD to charity in the past year. Although these numbers aren’t as high as donations from older generations, they are quickly catching up to their successors, the Gen Xers, and are predicted to increase as the millennials mature.

The past few years have brought about social change that has put a spotlight on what this generation is capable of. They have marched, spoken up, protested, made their voice heard, and given back to causes that span from women’s rights to gun reform to immigration. They have a strong drive to change what they feel isn’t right about society and are bound to make even more waves in the nonprofit world in the near future. As long as nonprofits and fundraisers can adapt to their styles of engagement, millennials have the affinity and values that many organizations would hope for in a donor and volunteer.


Sources & Additional Reading

[3] Case Study: Millenial Impact Project,

[4] The 2017 Millenial Impact Report,


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