people at a concert holding up their hands in the shape of a heart, representing millennials and their potential to support nonprofit causes and fundraising

7 Steps to Fundraising from Millennials: Getting Them to Give

What drives Generation Y when it comes to charitable giving? Members of the demographic group born between 1980 and 2000, also known as millennials, are motivated by the goal of making the world a better place.

At about 80 million strong, millennials represent a big part of the future of fundraising. That's music to the ears of many nonprofit development professionals, because studies indicate that this generation tends to be much more cause-driven than previous generations.


In fact, studies such as the Millennial Impact Report indicate that many members of Generation Y believe that they can make a personal difference. Millennials' approach to nonprofit giving presents a few dilemmas for fundraisers, though, namely that this generation isn't as likely to simply write a big check for a cause they care about. Let's take a closer look at giving patterns as we explore seven steps to fundraising from millennials.

1. Get to Know Gen Y

six different millennials who are interacting with nonprofit causes online, sitting on or near social media like symbols

Where do millennials' interests lie? What gets them excited? As with any fundraising effort, the first step is getting to know your audience. When it comes to giving, take the following general trends into account. Millennials tend to

  • Be tech-savvy and digitally connected
  • Quickly adapt to new technology
  • Be highly engaged with rating products and services, as well as reading and caring about others' ratings
  • Value speed, efficiency, and ease of transaction
  • Trust firsthand experience, and peers' and friends' opinions ("crowdsourcing") more than corporate mouthpieces or traditional "experts"
  • Seek out and enjoy social interaction, both online and offline
  • Believe they can make the world a better place
  • Be responsive to cause marketing

2. Know How Millennials Tend to Give

Now let's look at trends specific to fundraising and charitable giving among millennials. According to the 2016 Millennial Impact Report:

  • More than one-third of millennials surveyed had donated to charity within the past year.
  • Forty-three percent had volunteered for a cause in the past year.
  • The majority of millennials had signed a petition for a cause in the past year.
  • Nearly all had used social media to research or post about social causes within the past month. However, they tended to avoid conflict when researching or discussing social causes.

These statistics highlight millennials' tendency to be cause-driven, and offer important clues as to how to engage their nonprofit giving.

3. Set Up Online Fundraising: It's Key

Given Gen Y's involvement with technology, it's not hard to see that fundraising efforts must focus on online platforms. After all, Generation Y is the first generation to grow up plugged into the Internet, and it spends an average of more than 26 hours a week consuming media. Of these hours, six are spent on social media.

For development professionals, this reality means that fundraising campaigns geared toward millennials must utilize mobile apps and online platforms. Campaigns on social media platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook (or better yet, a combination of several) reach millennials on their own terms. Using text messaging and emails to disseminate information is more effective than snail mail.

Don't forget the primacy of mobile devices, either; according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 75 percent of millennials have used a mobile phone to look up information about a cause. Plus, millennials value easy, quick transactions, so ensure that all giving opportunities are user-friendly and simple.

4. Build Relationships to Foster Trust

Millennials tend to value their friends' and peers' opinions more than they do those of traditional "experts" or corporate mouthpieces. They spend time reviewing products and services online and make decisions based on others' ratings (think Yelp). This preference underscores the importance of building relationships based on trust and transparency, rather than relying on catchphrases, advertising, or branding, as may have been more common in the past.

Peer engagement is another important factor to consider. To attract millennial donors to your cause, your organization must be

  • Very visible in multiple online channels
  • Easy to reach
  • Responsive to questions, comments, and concerns
  • Able to communicate effectively and concisely
  • Transparent about how and where donations are used
  • Specific about where the money goes: "Your $50 donation will feed four families affected by the hurricane for a week," not "Your donation provides meals"

5. Offer Experiences

Millennials tend to seek out and value experiences, not just products. Moving away from traditional "write a check" fundraising events, such as auctions and dinners, toward experience-driven events, like races, may attract more Gen Y donors. For instance, you could host a 2k pet walk, a half-marathon, a bike race, or a dance.

Events that combine a fun experience with fundraising will engage more potential donors; even if they don't give right away, you're building trust. Experience-based events also help raise your visibility, as millennials are likely to tweet or post photos of themselves participating to their followers.

6. Provide Volunteer Opportunities

Another way to build trust in your organization is by offering volunteer experiences. Many millennials are more willing to give their time than their money, so provide opportunities for them to help out in person. As they get to know your organization, they'll put faces to names and feel more comfortable making that donation in the future.

7. Create Ownership

When millennials take ownership in the fundraising experience, they'll feel loyal to your organization. Allow them to take ownership by creating peer-to-peer fundraisers and online petitions. Offer graphics and content that are easy to share, and offer mentorship (rather than micromanagement). These tactics will help Gen Y members make a difference while having an experience.

Millennials are a big part of the future of fundraising. By getting to know them and utilizing techniques that appeal to this tech-savvy, connected, and social generation, you'll help ensure fundraising success in years to come.


Additional Resources: Nonprofit Fundraising