Millennial Philanthropy: The New Normal
A new normal in philanthropy is fast approaching. As members of the Millennial generation grow into their prime giving years, the impact of these philanthropists will upend “business as usual” for nonprofits in ways they are wholly unprepared to address.
First the facts: Members of the Millennial generation are the most philanthropic of any generation in memory. About 87 percent make regular gifts to charitable causes. These active philanthropists are involved—actively involved—in the charities they support with their money. About 70 percent regularly volunteer their time.
For the Millennial, service and philanthropy go hand-in-hand. The adage of “time and treasure” has never been truer. With the Millennial generation, you can add another to that duo: influence. Millennials aren’t content with just serving and giving; they also want to materially affect the outcome. They are absolutely obsessive about it.
Time was, fundraising was separate from the life of the organization somewhere “over there” and certainly not tied to volunteering or service in any meaningful way. For Millennials, this no longer works—if it ever did.
Members of the Millennial generation want to contribute their time and their financial resources—but with an important caveat. They also want these contributions to generate influence. They want an outcome. They want an outcome they shape.
And we’re not talking about just showering these donors with statistics to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to transparency or impact. Millennials want a partnership with full vesting rights.
These are activist investors in the purest sense. Woe to the nonprofit that ignores this. Pundits put the percentage at 50 percent of nonprofit organizations that will shutter their doors in the next decade as a result of failing to respond to Millennial expectations.
Don’t believe me? A member of the Millennial generation with whom I spoke this morning stated flatly, “There are just too many nonprofits. We need to consolidate and focus on outcomes. Single causes who think they can be independent of investor guidance aren’t going to be viable much longer.”
So what’s an organization to do? If you believe your cause is viable—is worthy—then start to embrace the “new normal” without delay.
The word “change” strikes fear in the hearts of many a nonprofit leader. You’ll have to make a decision as to whether the prospect of irrelevance—or extinction—is more or less scary than adjusting.
Doing nothing will net the same result as standing on the tracks staring at the locomotive hurtling toward you and simply waiting to see what happens next.
Relational philanthropy is something I’ve been preaching for years. It’s always been the way to get real philanthropic sustainability. True, lots of other approaches raise money, but they never deliver the scale or ongoing revenue stream that the building of authentic donor-investor relationships does.
Relational philanthropy has always been seen as a world inhabited by the big fish—the players of philanthropy. When I first got into fundraising, I never got a question about the impact of a gift from a donor unless we were discussing a gift of six-figures or more.
Now the Millennials ask those questions for a gift of $50.
The Eight Principles™ are those always operating, immutable laws of philanthropy and fundraising.
Following The Eight Principles™ by seeing donors as investors who desire real involvement has always been the way to secure a solid fundraising future. With the Millennials they’ve just become a lot more obvious. Adhering to them closely is now becoming essential for survival, not just enhancement.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is “Donors are the Drivers®.” There’s a lot said about being “donor-centric” and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that—as far as it goes. Being focused on your investors and their needs is essential.
What that perspective misses, however, is that donors are driving the philanthropic train. They bring both force and direction. Learning donor interests is only half the equation. Tapping the force of their real involvement is where the action is.
Learn and stick with each of The Eight Principles™. Build your volunteer and fundraising efforts on these principles and you’ll be ready to embrace the Millennial age. You’ll also do better right now.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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