Good news about Millennials and Fundraising

This week, I'm thrilled to introduce Christina Attard. Christina is an accomplished Canadian fundraiser with a particular expertise in the areas of planned giving and millennial. I've asked her to share her take on engaging millenials in funding causes. She can be found on her blog or on Twitter @gptekkie.


Christina AttardThere is good news for the future of philanthropy coming from reports about giving trends among members of the Millennial generation in North America.

The Story the Numbers Tell

Recent reports on philanthropic trends show that, on average, about 55% of those born between 1981-1991 give to charity contributing approximately $9.7 Billion in the US and approximately $800 Million in Canada.

In terms of the overall charitable market, the numbers are proportionally small. However, they represent an immense opportunity for those charities that can reach out and engage with millennial donors. Individuals in this age group are between 20 and 30 years old. They are:

  • completing degrees,
  • paying off student loans,
  • getting married,
  • buying homes,
  • starting families and struggling to move up from entry-level positions.

From an income and wealth perspective, it’s not exactly a great time to be giving money away! And yet, a habit of giving seems to be taking hold for more than half the Gen Y population.

So, Who’s Behind that Smartphone Anyway?

Last week, I attended a Millennial Donor Summit that addressed exactly how non-profits might be able to start working toward engaging this new generation of donors. Ironically, while it was a series of conversations centering on how charities market to and involve Millennials, the consistent sub-text suggested that Millennials expect the exact same treatment as other generations – they like to be informed, engaged, asked and to be shown their giving makes an impact. They use different communication technologies, but building trust-based relationships is still the key factor leading to donations.

Creating Give-vangelists

While the newest generation still represents the least active donor segment overall, that group representing the 55% of Millennials that are giving already likely contains some highly passionate thought leaders. Why? When compared to other groups, like those born before 1945 with an estimated 79% participation rate for giving, these millennial donors are choosing to do something that many of their peers are not doing – in short, they stand out and their giving makes a statement within their own generational culture.

As fundraising professionals, we are comfortable with recognizing major gift donors and celebrity philanthropists and using their influence to widen our own networks. However, are we missing the boat in developing evangelists among the younger ranks when we limit our scope to rating influence and passion by dollar values? I think it’s time to start zeroing in on the highly engaged and highly motivated leaders among that smaller Gen Y constituency that normally exists just below our radar.

"If I see one more donor report pic with guys in suits fondling a GIANT CHEQUE I'm gonna hurl - what about Gary's $50? Doesn't he matter?" -Fraser Green

What about taking a look at that Gen Y donor list and reaching out personally to the top 10% -

  • the ones who have made at least 2 gifts in 5 years,
  • the ones that are monthly supporters,
  • the ones who show signs of being highly engaged?

Why not try using the same relationship building tactics with these individuals that older, major gift donors receive? I’m thinking a personal email from the ED, a phone call, or an invitation to lunch or to come by for a site visit.

United in Doing Good

In a society that is less and less reliant on institutional communities like churches, younger people crave the connection and involvement that charities and non-profits that can offer them. Statistics show that, among Millennials, volunteerism and giving have a strong positive correlation.

However, asking cannot happen in a small time frame, it is a slow-burn. Luckily, there is still time with this generation to build a trust relationship that will harness the flame of passion that has already been lit for this constituency. A special touch from your charity now is going to make your organization top of mind when the smart Gen Y people are ready to make their long-term philanthropic plans via charitable legacies.

The One Percent Foundation believes that if all young adults gave 1% of their income, there would be $16 Billion of revenue for the US non-profit economy – sounds like we’re already part of the way there.

Sources and Resources

The Next Generation of American Giving
The Next Generation of Canadian Giving
Charitable Giving Habits of Gen X and Y
Millennial Donors Report 2011
Millennial Donor Summit 2011
The One Percent Foundation

(c) Christina Attard

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. This is a really great article! It zeroes in very well on the fact that millennials are no different than any other generation in giving, it is just through different outlets that giving is done and recognition should be done.

    My favorite part of this article is the idea of how to reach out to the top 10% of millennial donors who give to your personal organization! I believe if you give recognition, especially through social media, those from my generation will most likely share with their friend network very quickly.

    We had a great Twitter chat (@MillennialChat) yesterday about 'How to take millennials beyond interaction and to donation' where a lot of the information in this article was talked about!

    Great article Christina!

  2. Thank you for your comment and your compliments, Willie! Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Your point about the common recognition of major donors and celebrities but not necessarily volunteer fundraisers is a good one. To really engage a constituent and maximize the relationship, value should be placed not only on the "give" but on the "get." For example, so far this year I've only donated about $60 to my charity of choice (where I'm also a volunteer) but by "donating" my birthday, I coordinated friends and family to raise roughly $350. Thankfully the org I support is savvy enough to thank me for my gift, the gifts of my network and my volunteer time. They know I'm not one dimensional; I have many facets to my support. If they keep up the good work, I fully intend to grow my donations as my income grows. Orgs that keep 360-degree constituent data can have the leg up and win over young donors like me for life.

    (Also, as a Convio employee, I'd be remiss if I didn't think you for sharing our Next Generation studies. So...thanks!)


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