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Why nonprofits should use this time to think about younger donors - Part I.

Many nonprofits have been using this time to reevaluate their fundraising plans, connect with their donors, and strategize how to fundraise in a new environment and rightfully so. However, I'm learning that much of that energy is primarily focused on overall engagement and fundraising numbers as well as major gifts, prompting me to highlight a demographic that deserves strategic evaluation, planning, and outreach as well - young (Millennial and Gen X) donors.

I could write an entire white paper on the statistics around younger donors! There’s so much data out there on the behavioral science and giving trends of Gen X and Millennials (and to a lesser extent Gen Z), so in order to stay concise, I’m making this a 3 part blog and sticking to some basics.

First, let me qualify the parameters of generational labels: according to the Pew Research Center, Gen X is anyone born between 1965 and 1980, putting them between the ages of 39-55 in 2020. Millennials refer to those born between 1981 and 1996, which puts them between the ages of 24-39 in 2020. Gen Z are those born after 1997 and are under the age of 23 in 2020. In 2028, according to Pew Research, the overall population of Gen-Xers is forecasted to exceed that of Boomers and according to BBB.org, Millennials make up 50% of the workplace as of 2020.

How philanthropic are younger generations? The answer: extremely.

The Non-Profit Source’s 2018 survey had some very encouraging statistics, particularly around Millennial’s giving.

· 84% of Millennials give to charity

· 40% of Millennial donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program.

· 26% gave tribute gifts.

· 46% donate to crowdfunding campaigns.

· 15% gave on #GivingTuesday 2017.

· 16% give through Facebook fundraising tools.

· 64% volunteer locally, 9% internationally.

· 55% attend fundraising events.

· Millennials donated an annual average of $481 across 3.3 organizations.


The Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 The Next Generation of American Giving found similar numbers, with the Millennials’ average donation at $591. These studies (and others) have concluded that Millennials are giving at higher rates than their generational predecessors, but due to primarily financial constraints, they still give less than older generations. Blackbaud Institute’s data shows that 34 million Millennials contributed only 14% of all money donated in 2018. Not to despair, studies consistently show that younger donors continue to increase their giving every year!

That being said, the 2019 Burk Donor Survey found 48% of donors under the age of 35 said they could have given more last year. As the 2019 Burk Donor Survey advised: “Fundraisers should avoid making assumptions about younger donors’ philanthropic ability and willingness based on their current gift values alone.

Let’s not forget Gen X though (as so many of these studies do)! According to Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 The Next Generation of American Giving, Gen X surpassed Matures in total giving (although the older generation is still giving more per capita) and more than 20% of Gen X say they plan to increase their giving in the upcoming year, almost twice as much as Boomers or Matures. About 59% of Gen X give, and they gave an average of $921 in 2018 to 3.8 nonprofits. They make up 23% of all money donated in 2018.


These younger donors give less and often get less from nonprofits, I submit the latter is a mistake. As the 2019 Burk Donor Survey so aptly put it: "Not-for-profits no longer have to wait for this new generation -- equally committed to philanthropy but different in how they approach charitable giving – to take their place as serious donors. It is happening right now."

Takeaways from Part I: Younger donors give less than their older counterparts, but data suggests they are more philanthropic. With the anticipated $30 trillion wealth transfer from Boomers to subsequent generations underway and younger donors aging and increasing their wealth, these young donors are becoming your next major donors. Focusing the majority of your resources and fundraising strategies that appeal primarily to your existing major (and generally older donors) is short-sighted.

This new generation is committed to philanthropy, but they take different approaches to how and why they give. It’s time to start investing in the cultivation and solicitation of your younger donors.

Upcoming blogs entries:

Part II – How do younger donors give and where do they get their information?

Part III – What’s important to younger donors and tips to engage and cultivate this cohort.

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