Donor Tips from a Broke Chick: [Don’t] Forget the 20-Somethings

DISLAIMER: I’m in my 20s

Paul Nazareth, networking wizard extraordinaire, sent me this article. In it, they summarize the findings of the Millennial Impact Report and conclude that “young donors” are actually in their 50s. The “young donors” in their 20s are not worth the time.

The article goes on to point out that donors in their 20s are a fickle crowd, throwing ten bucks to a friend for Movember, or maybe even twenty to a street canvasser, but on a random and impulse manner. They are (gasp) financially insecure and may be called to action by a natural disaster but are unlikely to maintain their relationship as a continuing donor.

Let me tell you, I never tire of articles knocking twenty-somethings. Those self-absorbed creatures glued to their MTV smartphones that find a whole new level of entitlement in every aspect of their life: from school, to work, to what kind of lifestyle they think they deserve. They are the worst.

Although as a young broke donor I give haphazardly and have yet to build a lasting donor relationship with a specific organization, that shouldn’t preclude me from being worth an organization’s time and attention. The Millennial Impact Report did point out that the oft-disparaged Gen-Y is generous with their time, actively engaged in volunteer and board opportunities. Hey, we 20-somethings may not have the Bejamins/Bordens, but we’ve got passion and energy. And what with the twitters and our social networks, we can also be vital assets when it comes to peer-to-peer fundraising.

But I get it. You only have so many resources to put in to acquiring donors. Despite the volunteerism and the affinity for P2P fundraising, why would you try to chase down the elusive Gen-Y-ers when (according to the aforementioned article) Baby Boomers will provide you with a more solid return on investment?

Turn the clock back thirty years, before the Baby Boomers were your go-to donor demographic. What if you had started to build a relationship with them back then? Look at it a different way – in thirty years’ time the smug punk Gen-Y/Millennials/20-somethings of today are going to be your best bet for donations.

As the article from Charity Info says, any nonprofit not chasing Millennials isn’t doomed. Since it’s not a lucrative demographic, what’s the worry if they’re not a part of your donor relations strategy? No worry. But I would argue that mentality is short-sighted.

The organization that ignores me today when I’m struggling is going to expect me to give to them in thirty years. And who knows, I might donate something. But let’s say another organization created opportunities for me to feel included in the cause through my 20s, 30s, and 40s (the Royal Ontario Museum’s Friday Night Live is a pretty good example). Of the two organizations, who is going to add me to their list of major donors?  It’s true, I’m financially unstable. So I give haphazardly. But some day I’ll be financially stable (fingers crossed!) and some day I’m going to look to give in a meaningful way.

In order to get that kind of investment from the major donors of tomorrow, you might want to consider investing in them today.

Just a thought.


4 thoughts on “Donor Tips from a Broke Chick: [Don’t] Forget the 20-Somethings

  1. Very well said! Its often occured to me that this was an issue, and I think you nailed it. I do think theres probably a similar reason to this that heritage doesn’t appeal to the larger population of younger people. Unless its providing some form of financial benefit, generally they aren’t interested – which is a shame. So I find many events are tuned and advertised to the older crowd, who expect a certain something or other, which perhaps also doesn’t help attract a younger crowd – and thus the story stays the same.

    • Thanks for commenting! Are you familiar with the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s NextGen group? I’m delighted to be a part of the group, made of students and young professionals from a wide range of backgrounds – architecture, history, city planning, etc. Although a relatively new group, our events have been well attended! Toronto writer Jamie Bradburn even covered our tour of Camp 30! It’s terrific that the ACO supported the creation of this NextGen group as it goes a long way to showing us young folk that there is a place for us within the larger organization.

      I’m not sure if I agree that Gen-Y-ers are only interested in something if it provides financial benefit – although for some that is likely the case! I would say that Millennials are looking for professional benefit, making connections, something that can be added to a resume to add some edge. Which are likely not the tried and true events of an organization.

      As an aside – personally I think events that give a bit of behind-the-scenes, or out-of-the-ordinary are the ones that get the 20-somethings out (and are certainly not exclusively of interest to younger stakeholders!). The ROM’s events let you drink and dance in a museum after hours. Tweed Ride Toronto calls for you to dress up in vintage gear and ride around the city. A stakeholder meeting at the AGO brought up the idea of a cocktail party during an installation. These are the experiences that will stay with us and remind us that we were important to an organization’s programming when we were younger. In my opinion anyway!

  2. Funny you should post this today, I was just discussing this yesterday. The old ways of giving just aren’t going to work for 20 somethings. I will NEVER give to a chairty because they send me a notepad in the mail (they really really annoy me and are such a waste, but that’s another topic). I do give sporadically to different charities, usually because someone I know is participating in a fundraiser. I think that we are also more conscious now of how charities spend the money we donate, and it makes us somewhat hesitant to give away our hard earned bucks if they are going to waste it.

    • Hi Sara, and thanks for commenting! You make a good point about the need for transparency and trust in fundraising and donor relationships. It’s very helpful to show how where fundraising dollars go!

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