Giving like a Gen Y – yes, it happens!

publication date: Dec 19, 2011
author/source: Carolyn Hawthorn
Gen Ys that donate? It's not a misprint. A glimpse into the relationships Gen Ys have with charitable donations paired with suggestions for attracting their interest will guide your charitable organization towards receiving more Gen Y support. Carolyn Hawthorn photo

Generous, hungry for information

When Achieve and Johnson Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) studied the giving habits of 2010 Gen Ys in the US, they found that Gen Ys are more likely to give in a recession than any other generation. One-third of the respondents reported gifts between $0 and $99, and over 40% donated more than $300. Additionally, 69% were willing to increase their giving amount within the year.

Gen Ys are interested in a variety of charitable organizations. But in order to feel comfortable giving, they must have information. In the Achieve-JGA survey, 86% stated they wanted updates on programs or services, especially financial information. And six out of ten said they wouldn't donate to a charity the first time they were introduced to the organization.

Though Gen Ys prefer email and still use search engines to research organizations of interest, they respond to social media as well. Facebook, blogging, Twitter, and other social media sites are crucial in engaging and retaining Gen Y, as long as the social media practice is done in an authentic way.

Attracting with interaction

Besides social media, charities should explore other interactive programs to attract the tech-savvy Gen Y. Advice for Good offers these examples:
  • The BBC created a website called Dimensions to show the scale of events in different geographic contexts. After entering your location, you can see statistics such as how much of your area would have been affected by the Pakistan floods of 2010. It's a great example of how technology can connect large-scale and distant issues to local contexts.
  • Gapminder is an example of presenting data crucial to Gen Ys in an interesting and interactive way. Through the Gapminder website, users can interact with a wide range of global development statistics and trends.
  • Google Earth Engine can showcase ongoing changes within the world. For example, the application allows you to see the deforestation of Brazil over the years.
Building Gen Y engagement

Leadership opportunities within an organization help Gen Ys feel that they are contributing to a tangible change. Take advantage of their talents in writing, public speaking, photography, fashion, painting, science, or athletics to encourage involvement and build a sense of connection. Such roles often make Gen Ys feel more connected, and that makes them more likely to give to your organization.

Finally, here are some tips based on the research that will help your charity connect with Generation Y.
  • Be specific - in your ask, event, volunteer opportunity, financial situation, mission, vision, successes, and failures.
  • Thank young donors uniquely.
  • Take some marketing risks. Be unique, do something different, do something that will resonate with people, and start with YouTube videos.
  • Employ a multi-channel high-tech process to reach donors, but rely on face-to-face contact to make the ask. (Twitter, Facebook, blogging are great for this.)
  • Provide updates, good and bad. Donors have a right to know.
  • Provide unique opportunities.
  • Use social media authentically.
  • Have financial information ready, with someone able to answer questions.
  • Research what's up and coming. What's the new Twitter?
  • Ask questions, perhaps ask a Gen Y questions! Conduct field research to help your organization win over Gen Ys.
  • Understand that your return on investment will take a little longer when dealing with Gen Ys.
  • Keep track of what's working and what isn't working.
Implementing some of these suggestions in your organization will help draw in Gen Ys eager to make a smart, lasting, and meaningful donation to your charitable cause.

Download Millennial Donors: A Study of Millennial Giving and Engagement by Achieve: Guidance, Resources, Success and JGA: Johnson Grossnickle Associates at 2010

Carolyn Hawthorn is a recent graduate from the Fundraising and Volunteer Management program at Humber College. Passionate about causes close to the hearts of young adults, Carolyn has worked in the communications department at The University of Western Ontario Student Union, her alma mater. Currently an active "Mo Sista," Carolyn is working at Movember Canada.

Contact her by email 

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