The Rise of Millennial Giving: What Nonprofits Need to Know
We often hear that organizations are targeting older audiences in their mailings and engaging millennials and emerging audiences through digital alone. But a Giving USA study revealed a significant increase in millennial gift giving from 2016 to 2022, and much of that lift is a result of direct mail. Taking advantage of empty mailboxes, in addition to understanding what really motivates millennials to give, is key to the future of most fundraising programs.
According to findings, annual average giving by millennials increased significantly by 40%, from $942 to $1,323. Millennials are also more likely than other generations to give as a result of direct mail strategies, with their desire to donate increasing by 6% since 2016.
The shift in motivation could be due to the global pandemic — just as social distancing created a visceral, physical experience, humanity yearned for connection. While many nonprofits were employing cost-effective strategies, including a decrease in direct mail, millennials wanted more in their mailboxes.
Since this generation tends to opt for paperless bill-paying options, a direct mail appeal and the occasional birthday card from Nana are most likely the only pieces of physical mail they receive, which helps your organization to stand out. So, how might nonprofits effectively reach motivated millennial givers?
1. Understand Their Communication Style and Preferences
When it comes to communication, millennials don’t necessarily want to be talked at, they want to be talked to and communicated with. Providing constituents with engaging, thought-provoking messages targeted not only toward the individual, but also toward the impact they could make and the needs of the individual is critical to engagement.
Like Gen Zers, who are not far behind in giving, millennials gravitate toward social impact, particularly when it comes to how organizations engage with and support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Because impact is an integral part of their personhood, they want to know how their charity of choice is making an impact in areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.
How, then, is your organization representing and celebrating diverse communities and protecting the dignity of those you serve in your storytelling? Does your creative and content accurately reflect and represent the diverse constituents supporting — and being served by — your mission? Is your content accessible to all?
2. Discover Why This Change in Giving Is So Important to Your Organization
Evidence proves that millennials will continue to increase their giving when organizations understand how and why they, as individuals, align with the nonprofit’s mission. While giving among other generations remains in the highest amounts, their overall individual giving has decreased — leaving millennials as the audience to watch.
Their motivations to give are equally important to understand. While baby boomers see giving as a duty, millennials view charitable donations as a way of rolling up their sleeves and creating change in the world. This generation wants to see the impact of their actions, as evidenced by a Vanguard Charitable study that shows millennials gave five times more to disaster relief over the last few years than their boomer counterparts. Global and natural disasters will, no doubt, continue to be an area of focus for millennials moving forward.
3. Know How to Creatively Personalize the Experience
The tangibility and memorability of a physical piece of mail matters now more than ever before. Additionally, the personalization and customization of direct mail campaigns effectively complements digital marketing efforts by further meeting the needs of millennials when it comes to omnichannel engagement.
Take, for example, two recent case studies of direct mailing campaigns targeting millennials. For an animal welfare campaign, the direct mail package included tear-out pieces that acted as nameplates on kennel hangers. Supporters could craft an individual message to hang over a kennel at the adoption center, further promoting the impact of their actions on staff and future adoptive parents in a tangible, personal way.
Likewise, a hospital partner initiated a direct mail package that included bright red paper and instructions on how to fold an origami heart. Supporters then mailed back the hearts with messages of support written on them to the hospital, where they were prominently displayed for visitors, staff and patients to see. In both of these examples, millennials had the chance to participate in something bigger than themselves by creating something meaningful and personal to the individual creator.
Millennials — and generations to come — will continue to be a major philanthropic audience. Understanding their identity as individuals who live and operate in a world with a lot of noise also means understanding that they are a direct mail audience responsive to a well-crafted campaign and targeted, meaningful touch points. Adding direct mail campaigns to your marketing strategy to acquire and engage millennials is critical to the success of your nonprofit organization.
With more than a decade of experience working in nonprofit strategy and development for diverse nonprofit organizations, Whitney Norman has developed an aptitude to identify and understand the unique strengths and opportunities each nonprofit organization may possess. As the vice president of client solutions at Pursuant, she engages new potential partners, builds and maintains lasting relationships, and provides appropriate solutions for those organizations to grow to their full potential.