Building Trust with Millenial Donors

Hi project leaders! I’m Alison Carlman, GlobalGiving’s Unmarketing Manager. I was privileged to attend the Millennial Donor Summit this week which focused on millennials and social change.

The summit gathered around the idea that targetting millennials is a vital long-term investment for non-profits.  Millenials don’t yet donate as much money as their parents do, but they bring their extensive social networks to the table when they engage with your organization.

At the Summit we discussed the Millenial Donor Report, research conducted by the folks at Johnson Grossnickle & Assoc. This online study of nearly 3,000 20-35 year-olds revealed that Millenial donors thrive in online and mobile environments, but they are still driven by personal relationships and human connections.

Millenials donate to organizations that they TRUST. Where does trust come from? 77% of millennial respondents said that friends and family’s recommendations are a major factor in their giving.  This is an important “unmarketing” principle: your current, satisfied donors are your most important assets. If your current millennial donors feel happy and trust you, then they will promote you amongst their own networks.

How do you get your millenials to feel happy and trust you? Trust is built slowly. With the exception of crises, millennials engage first, and donate second.

According to “ The Trusted Advisor,” trust results from a combination of credibility, reliability, and intimacy.  But these factors are divided by one major bombshell: SELF–INTEREST. Donors, especially millennial donors, can smell self-interest coming from a mile away.

If you’re a math fan, here’s the trust equation:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

Can I be frank with you? This is my first post on the Tools and Training blog, so I’m sorry if I wear out my welcome immediately. But I frequently see project leaders posting only self-interested posts on the GlobalGiving facebook wall.  And I’m pretty sure that those posts have very little impact.  If you’re constantly posting messages saying “please donate to our project,” your time spent on social media is probably being wasted. Those messages aren’t part of a conversation; they begin to feel like spam to most of the people who see them.

Millenial donors will only respond well to all of your asking if first you’ve established credibility, reliability, and intimacy with them. If you’ve first engaged them in conversation, then you can ask.

So rather than posting repeated donation asks on GlobalGiving’s Facebook wall, how about spending time having conversations with your own donors on your page? Those are the people who know you best.  Find out what they like about you. Solicit advice about a problem. Thank them and congratulate them. TELL GREAT STORIES, and share relevant news from outside your organization. When they engage, respond.  THEN you can make some asks. Ask them to share your story with just one friend today. Make a personal request for re-tweets from some of your twitter followers. Once you’ve established relationships, then you can ask for money.

I’ll say it again, referrals from your current satisfied donors/followers/friends will be the best source of new donors for you, not the “masses” out there who don’t know you but might catch a tweet.

If you’re committed to better social media engagement with your current and future donors, I encourage you to read some other blog posts coming out of the Millenial Donor Summit:

You can see from these blog posts that we’re all still learning together about what works best on social media.  I’m rooting for you!  If you think I might be able to help answer a question, (preferably a question that doesn’t start with, “can you post this on your Facebook?”) I’d love to try to help. Send me an email: or a direct message on twitter @globalgiving.


Alison Carlman

As Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications, Alison has the privilege of telling GlobalGiving's story and the stories of our inspiring nonprofit partners. Follow her on twitter @acarlman.


Joshua Nixon Makawa

about 9 years ago

what is mailchimp? what is its purpose!!

Joshua Nixon Makawa

about 9 years ago

i failed to connect


about 9 years ago

Hi Joshua, I'm sorry I'm not really sure I understand what you're asking. You can find out more about MailChimp, the e-newsletter service at their website, - you can enter mailchimp into a search engine if that link doesn't work for you for some reason. Thanks, Alison

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