Focus on Millennial Donors at Your Peril
Watch out, the millennials are coming.
The Census says there are 83.1 million of them in the U.S. and many more worldwide. There are more now as I write this — but the point is that there are a lot of them. There is also a lot of chatter about this group of people. Some call them the “Me Generation” filled with self-orientation and narcissism. Others state that they are more committed and more thoughtful than past generations.
Who are they? The term “millennials” generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982 to 2000. The millennial generation is also known as “Generation Y,” because it comes after Generation X — those people between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s.
Millennials are changing the face of business. In a Business Insider article, Kate Taylor writes that millennials are “killing” some of the businesses and industries that have been around for a long time. Here are just some of those businesses or industries they are abandoning:
- Casual dining chains, like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's
- Golf and Football
- Department stores, like Macy’s and Sears
- Home improvement stores, like Home Depot and Lowe’s
And they will change the face of philanthropy, as Brady Josephson of re:charity wrote about nine insights on millennials and fundraising.
Jeff and I are regularly asked about millennials — what to do with them and how to relate to them in major gifts. There is a lot of advice out there on this subject. But ours boils down to these three points:
1. Follow the Wealth
Don’t get so enamored with millennials that you ignore the fact that the majority of the wealth and resources are with the Gen X, baby boomers and the matures — the older generations. Spend most of your efforts talking to and nurturing those groups.
2. But Keep an Eye on Millennials
And this is a big “but” — do not ignore the fact that millennials are an up-and-coming group of donors that is substantially different from past generations. Millennials will change how you operate so you need to pay attention to them. This means keep your Gen X, boomer/mature efforts going full speed while you build systems and strategies (see re:charity article) for the millennials.
3. Share Gift Impact With Donors
Impact and proof of performance is becoming more and more critical to major gift success. Jeff and I have been saying this for years — the reason most donors go away or give less is because they do not know their giving is making a difference. Period. And if that is a problem now, with our older generation donors, it is going to be an even bigger problem with millennials.
Millennials are more trust sensitive than other donors. As Brady points out, “84% of them say they are most likely to donate when they fully trust an organization. And 90% say they will stop giving if they do not trust the organization.” They demand authenticity and proof of performance. Deliver on that, and they will be loyal to the end.
Plus, impact and proof of performance is a huge deal with Gen Xers. Huge. So, this one point — trust — is a huge point. We cannot emphasize enough how important this one area is to the survival and health of your major gift program and your organization. Give impact information and be economically healthy or don’t give it and die. That is the stark reality.
You can spend a great deal of time and energy getting ready for and talking to millennials. You can get all your social media and email strategies finely tuned. You can do mostly everything a millennial wants and still lose it, with current older donors and millennials, because you have not paid attention to this one area: proof of performance.
It is good to focus on the media and the strategies. But stop for a bit and focus instead on the message. What are you telling the donors on your caseload about how their giving is making a difference? That is what is important. That is what will determine whether you succeed or fail.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.