Don’t get too excited by survey on Millennial giving

Another widely misinterpreted study has some in the fundraising community in a tizzy. This time it’s the Millennial Impact Report, which headiness the following factoid:

93% of surveyed Millennials gave to nonprofit organizations in 2010

A more accurate way of saying that would be:

93% of surveyed Millennials said they gave to nonprofit organizations in 2010

Because this study is not donor data. It is the compiled responses from 2,953 survey participants, age 20-35. It’s what they said, not what they do. That’s not to say the survey is wrong, or that it can’t be generalized with a reasonable margin of error to the attitudes of the 20-35 population. But you simply can’t look at that number and think these people are donors the same way your current stable of donors are donors.

Here’s what the survey does not tell us:


  • 74 million donors up for grabs.
  • People born in the 80s are extraordinarily generous.
  • Any nonprofit that isn’t investing heavily in Millennial fundraising is doomed.

That 93% who said they gave in 2010 includes those who:


  • Dropped money in the church collection plate at least once.
  • Sponsored a pal in a walk or run.
  • Gave $5 or $10 via their phone, mostly likely to Haiti quake relief, since the year in question is 2010.
  • Gave money to panhandlers.
  • Believe giving is good, but didn’t quite get around to it.

… as well as those who were committed, ongoing supporters of causes.

If you’re like most nonprofits, less than 5% of your donors are under age 35. There are reasons for that:

It’s hard to find them.

More important, it’s even harder to keep them.

That’s the way it is with people in their 20s and 30s.

If you’re in international relief, you get floods of them after major disasters. But nearly all of them lapse away, not giving again until the next disaster. Or until they turn 60 or so and become the type of loyal donors that make charitable work possible.

Every fundraiser should be deeply concerned about finding more young donors. But young donors are better defined as people between 50 and 65. Those are the folks who are about to transform, Get them now, and you have an amazing asset for decades to come.


Comments

10 responses to “Don’t get too excited by survey on Millennial giving”

  1. While I do agree that some of the stats about donor giving in the Millennial Report are misleading, I don’t think nonprofits should be focusing on those figures as the biggest takeaway. What the report presents well is the habits of these young potential donors: their smartphone use, social media engagement, etc.
    The stats and info around these habits are incredibly useful to nonprofits because it stresses the importance of updating your approach to fit well with new technology. Many nonprofits are stuck with text-heavy websites, outdated Facebook pages and inactive Twitter accounts (which in most cases is due to lack of time and resources). They shouldn’t only be updating their approach because of the “stats” of how many Millennials donated in previous years, but instead because it the general trend with the internet. The world is moving towards a certain visual-heavy storytelling medium and it’s critical that nonprofits try their best to stay with this trend.

  2. While I do agree that some of the stats about donor giving in the Millennial Report are misleading, I don’t think nonprofits should be focusing on those figures as the biggest takeaway. What the report presents well is the habits of these young potential donors: their smartphone use, social media engagement, etc.
    The stats and info around these habits are incredibly useful to nonprofits because it stresses the importance of updating your approach to fit well with new technology. Many nonprofits are stuck with text-heavy websites, outdated Facebook pages and inactive Twitter accounts (which in most cases is due to lack of time and resources). They shouldn’t only be updating their approach because of the “stats” of how many Millennials donated in previous years, but instead because it the general trend with the internet. The world is moving towards a certain visual-heavy storytelling medium and it’s critical that nonprofits try their best to stay with this trend.

  3. I dislike the way you are always so down on young donors.
    Just because someone isn’t giving regular donations via a traditional direct debit doesn’t make them any less of a support of a charity.
    Should we not be looking at this and thinking woah a huge number of young donors believe giving to charity is a good thing, how do we tap into that, rather than trying to pick apart the survey data and belittle the contribution younger donors make to these charities.
    Maybe the reason younger donors prefer giving to disaster relief is becuase they like seeing an instant result, rather than pouring money into cancer research each month.

  4. I dislike the way you are always so down on young donors.
    Just because someone isn’t giving regular donations via a traditional direct debit doesn’t make them any less of a support of a charity.
    Should we not be looking at this and thinking woah a huge number of young donors believe giving to charity is a good thing, how do we tap into that, rather than trying to pick apart the survey data and belittle the contribution younger donors make to these charities.
    Maybe the reason younger donors prefer giving to disaster relief is becuase they like seeing an instant result, rather than pouring money into cancer research each month.

  5. Siobhan Aspinall Avatar
    Siobhan Aspinall

    You make some excellent points here. It’s not about Millennials being generous or not – Canadians are a generous bunch at any age – it’s about being too young to consistently commit to high levels of giving. Kids and homes come along, careers are being established, and giving comes and goes until you get into your more stable years.

  6. Siobhan Aspinall Avatar
    Siobhan Aspinall

    You make some excellent points here. It’s not about Millennials being generous or not – Canadians are a generous bunch at any age – it’s about being too young to consistently commit to high levels of giving. Kids and homes come along, careers are being established, and giving comes and goes until you get into your more stable years.

  7. After reading your post, we have some concerns about the report’s interpretation.
    The statistic you mention about giving is from our research in 2011. This year’s report found that 75% of the 6,500 surveyed gave to nonprofit organizations. Regardless of the method, they are donors and supporters of nonprofit work.
    2/3 of the report focuses on how Millennials connect and involve with nonprofit organizations. From communication, marketing, mobile, and social media – Millennials are taking different approaches to learn about causes and get involved. That is a primary message from the report.
    Telling organizations to focus on those in their fifties and sixties, which you define as “younger” donors, is very concerning. That would mean we do not send any appeals or try to engage anyone till they have capacity to give when they are much older. Trying to develop relationships with individuals for the first time after they have had more than 30 years experience giving and volunteering to other organizations is very challenging.
    Millennial engagement is not a strategy based on capacity of financial gifts. In each study and focus group that we have performed over the last three years, we continue to hear from Millennials that fundraisers need to move beyond just financial as a means for involvement. This is why fundraisers are in a tizzy; because they lack the ability or skill to engage Millennials beyond just asking for money.
    As a follow-up, I would like to invite you to an online discussion with the research team to discuss how organizations should apply the findings.

  8. After reading your post, we have some concerns about the report’s interpretation.
    The statistic you mention about giving is from our research in 2011. This year’s report found that 75% of the 6,500 surveyed gave to nonprofit organizations. Regardless of the method, they are donors and supporters of nonprofit work.
    2/3 of the report focuses on how Millennials connect and involve with nonprofit organizations. From communication, marketing, mobile, and social media – Millennials are taking different approaches to learn about causes and get involved. That is a primary message from the report.
    Telling organizations to focus on those in their fifties and sixties, which you define as “younger” donors, is very concerning. That would mean we do not send any appeals or try to engage anyone till they have capacity to give when they are much older. Trying to develop relationships with individuals for the first time after they have had more than 30 years experience giving and volunteering to other organizations is very challenging.
    Millennial engagement is not a strategy based on capacity of financial gifts. In each study and focus group that we have performed over the last three years, we continue to hear from Millennials that fundraisers need to move beyond just financial as a means for involvement. This is why fundraisers are in a tizzy; because they lack the ability or skill to engage Millennials beyond just asking for money.
    As a follow-up, I would like to invite you to an online discussion with the research team to discuss how organizations should apply the findings.

  9. Jerold Kappel, CFRE Avatar
    Jerold Kappel, CFRE

    Thank you for your clarity on this. Every young development officer needs to read this. And every CEO that thinks his fundraising worries are over if they just invest more in social media.

  10. Jerold Kappel, CFRE Avatar
    Jerold Kappel, CFRE

    Thank you for your clarity on this. Every young development officer needs to read this. And every CEO that thinks his fundraising worries are over if they just invest more in social media.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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