Ask any direct-mail fundraiser, and she’ll tell you that the average donor age is approximately 60.* Sixty-year-olds give the most money and make up the bulk of volunteers. They also are most likely to serve on nonprofit boards.
I suppose this makes sense, at least among the middle class. By the time folks reach their late 50s and early 60s, they’ve paid down/off their mortgages and put their kids through school, and can afford to redirect more disposable income to charity. Folks in this age bracket also are thinking about their legacies, i.e., what they’ll be remembered for. But this begs a question: If most donors are 60-something, what does this mean for millennial philanthropy? Should we ignore these 75 million younger Americans until they come of “donor age”? Or should we take a different approach to millennial cultivation and giving? And if so, how should we proceed?
To answer these questions, I went directly to the source, interviewing Qui Diaz, director of strategy for PR firm Livingston Communications. Qui is a millennial and a philanthropist in her own right. At Livingston, she’s responsible for helping nonprofits develop strategies to reach younger donors via the social Web.
Jocelyn Harmon: Do you see yourself as a donor or a philanthropist? What do these terms mean to you?
Qui Diaz: “Donor” is a limiting term that doesn’t see beyond cash, whereas “philanthropy” captures a wider range of benevolence. I don’t give nearly as much as I’d like to on either front — time or money — but I am there, on each front, to some extent. I’m also new at this and have a lot to learn. So let’s say I’m a rookie philanthropist, or a philanthropist-in-training.
JH: Why do you donate?
QD: Donating is my plan B because dollars alone will never feed my need for hands-on action. Plan A is giving my time and attention, which is more gratifying. However, I do contribute dollars to nonprofits with missions that align with my own, and I’m learning to give more strategically.