Blog Post, Communications, Fundraising, Strategy & Implementation

Attracting the Next Generation of Donors: Part II

February 17, 2015

In our last post, we outlined the challenges nonprofits face in attracting younger supporters and offered strategies focusing on social media and the Internet as powerful tools for engagement.

Additional ways to get this group’s attention include taking into consideration that they support causes and social issues rather than organizations. They also like immediate results and see volunteering as a means of networking and connecting to their peers. Keeping these facts in mind, here are some additional strategies to engage this age group.

Demonstrate how donated funds equal numbers of people helped. The next generation is not interested in the structure of an organization; they want to see where their money makes a difference. They are concerned about social issues and will be more attracted to fundraising initiatives organized around specific projects that identify how donations will help others. They want to see where their money makes a difference. 60% of the respondents in the 2013 Millennial Impact Report like it when nonprofits share stories about successful projects or the people they help. “Educate me about your organization and challenge me to think and reinforce my caring,” said one respondent.

Charity Water (charitywater.org), an organization promoting safe, clean water for communities globally, does an excellent job of collecting and featuring stories and photos of those they have helped, inspiring young people to be passionate about this cause. Other organizations use blogs to share success stories. The organization Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance (thejdca.org), a group advocating for type 1 diabetes research, blogs regularly about projects with the potential to deliver a Practical Cure by the year 2025. The blog is part of the organization’s effort to see a greater percentage of private contributions allocated to Practical Cure research, by engaging the type 1 community of donors to the largest charities funding diabetes research. A third organization, Spark (sparksf.org), engages young people in supporting global women’s issues. A campaign launched to supply foot-powered water pumps in Madagascar caught on in a big way. The message said a $60 donation would buy a pump that could supply enough water for two farms. Donors could visualize exactly where their dollars were going, and $4,500 was immediately raised for 75 pumps.

While social media and the web are essential stages for your message, they’re not the only way to reach younger donors. Many nonprofit leaders, including the FoodBank’s Uniacke, believe there’s no substitute for interpersonal engagement: whether it’s sponsoring an event with real appeal or getting volunteers through your doors to see what you’re all about.

Offer many ways of getting involved, and emphasize social and networking benefits. Members of the next generation are inveterate networkers. They welcome opportunities, including volunteering, that will help them meet others their age with similar outlook and interests. In the millennial survey 2014, 77% of respondents preferred to perform cause work with groups of fellow employees as opposed to doing independent service projects. By the year 2020, millennials will make up approximately 50% of the workplace. So what better place to cultivate new donors than in the corporate world?

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (teamintraining.org) offers people the opportunity to help raise money towards cures for blood cancers. Many participants volunteer through the workplace. They pledge to raise money for the charity and in return receive training for marathons, half marathons, and other intense fitness events that typically attract young people. “Our athletes walk away with new friends…and the sense that they did something even more important than getting in good shape,” says the website. Since 1988, approximately 600,000 participants have helped raise more than $1.4 billion for research.

Another organization, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (cfbnj.org), has a strong corporate volunteer program, tapping into companies who want to encourage giving back and regard volunteering as team-building. “Our corporate volunteers come in groups,” says marketing director Rich Uniacke. “They tend to be younger employees and even summer interns. For many, it’s their first volunteering experience. Once they are here they are connected to us.” Volunteers come to the FoodBank’s spotlessly clean warehouse in Hillside, NJ, where they get a first-hand look at the scope of services. They may sort food for distribution, pack new clothes for children, and stock school supplies in a resource center for teachers. The passion that goes into helping those in need is contagious.

The FoodBank also depends on the power of events to attract new supporters, tailoring some food-themed events specifically for younger people. “It’s a natural fit, promoting food security—the availability of food to everyone—to ‘foodies,’” says Uniacke. In 2014 the FoodBank brought together top New Jersey chefs for special dinners. Other events held in trendy bars feature craft beers, popular among young people.

“We call these events friend raisers, not fundraisers,” adds Uniacke. “We’re building relationships, and in the end that’s what it’s all about.”