The Fire-Belly, Mountain-Climbing, Social Media-Using Next Generation Donor

    What’s that, you want to climb a mountain for charity?! Fundraisers, meet the next generation of donors! This generation, normally referred to as the millennials, is educated, tech savvy, passionate and will not be happy sitting on the sidelines, especially when it comes to the nonprofits they support. Whether it be climbing a mountain, walking, or volunteering, this generation wants to be part of the change. So, if your organization is trying to get in good with this next generation of donors, you might want to start thinking about how you can get them involved.

    The Millennials

    At 78 million strong, this generation aged 20-35 has now surpassed the baby boomers as the dominant and most influential group in the United States. It’s no wonder then, that this group has been getting a lot of attention.

    The recent Millennial Donors Report conducted by Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) looks at this generation’s giving habits and what they need from the nonprofits they support. Here are two key findings from that report:

    • 93% of millennials gave to nonprofits in 2010.
    • 79% volunteered in 2010.

    The follow-up Millennial Donor Summit provided much needed insight into how nonprofits can effectively engage this next generation of donors and volunteers. What was revealed at that summit was that this generation doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines. They want to get their hands dirty and put their passion to work for the nonprofits they support. Beth Kanter, commenting on the summit, says that this next generation of donors has “fire in their bellies” and they want to change the world. But they won’t be happy just writing a cheque. They want in on the action!

    So, the question is: How will you engage them? How will you put these millions of smart, young, passionate people to work for your organization? Better think fast, or they’ll find somewhere else to get involved and effect change.

    A New Era of Engagement

    When it comes to prospect engagement, we normally think it’s enough to send an update letter, make a phone call, and invite prospects to come for a visit. With the next generation of donors, however, this level of engagement is not going to cut it. So, it’s time to start thinking about how you might be able to invite millennials to get involved with your organization in a meaningful way. Here are a couple examples of how nonprofits are doing just that:

    • The Parkinson’s Association has organized a fundraiser called Summit4Stemcell. This fundraiser asks supporters to climb 19,340 feet to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for non-embryonic stem cell research that will be used to find a cure for parkinson’s disease.
    • The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is also a good example. This 12 hour over-night event asks supporters to walk 60km to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones and fight back against the disease. Participants get a chance to use their passion, drive and social networking skills to contribute to the cause and make a difference. The whole process, from fundraising to the walk itself, is very engaging and allows them to feel like they are a part of the organization.

    You don’t have to engage millennials in a physical way, however. Many organizations are simply encouraging supporters to create their own fundraising page to raise money for the cause. See Crowdsourced Fundraising: Empowering the Multitudes and Raising Big Bucks For Charity! for more on this. The point is to engage them, allow them to get their hands dirty and contribute to your organization. If you do, you will ignite fire in the bellies of the next generation and create lasting supporters.

    This article is brought to you by Sumac – helping non-profits do more with less.
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