The New Donor

The New Donor

My name is Starlyn and I am GlobalGiving’s Champion for Donor Engagement. It’s my job to learn everything there is to know about donors on GlobalGiving and help them make the most out of their giving experience. Last year I attended a conference on millennial giving, MCON, and I wanted to share some of my learnings with you, our nonprofit partner community.

This year’s hottest buzzword in fundraising is “millennials.” I can’t read any crowdfunding blog without hearing about this mysterious group of donors just waiting to be tapped. If you are still confused about what exactly a millennial is and why they matter to your nonprofit, this post is for you.

There is nothing mysterious about millennials. I am a millennial and odds are you know a few yourself. A millennial is someone who was born between the years 1980 and 2000. We grew up with household computers, mobile phones, and ready access to information. We are the most “plugged-in” generation yet but we also had parents that lived through the civil rights era and grew up with a culture of civic engagement. Just because millennials take less time to read articles or posts online doesn’t mean we are shallow or don’t care, it means that we know what we like and how to find it, quickly. Millennials also spend a larger portion of our day interacting with media (Facebook, texting, TV, radio, etc.) than previous generations, 18 hours per day by some estimates!

Millennials on GlobalGiving
Millennials now make up half of GlobalGiving website visitors. Many of us are exploring the GlobalGiving community just waiting to form a connection! However, as you can see by the pie chart below, that same age group only donates about a third of the volume we see coming through GlobalGiving but this could soon change as more millennials reach working age.

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So, how can you try to engage millennials?

Act to Give
First remember that, to millennials, engagement is relative. One of my major takeaways from the conference was that some millennials can feel like they are a part of a nonprofit’s community of supporters just by subscribing to a mailing list, while others need to physically volunteer their time or skills to feel a connection. It’s all about trying to move supporters up the engagement ladder. For example, you could try to get your Twitter followers to sign up for your newsletter, then ask them to start a fundraiser, then maybe give them an opportunity to volunteer for your cause. All of these interactions may solidify your relationship with your younger supporters so that in the next 10 years, when they have more disposable income, they will feel kinship to your organization over others with similar goals. This is called the “Act to Give” model and many nonprofits are now using this to their advantage.

Conversely, some millennials do not feel as much of an affiliation with nonprofit organizations as other generations. We identify with the cause or the unique way your organization is working to solve a social problem. This is why branding and storytelling are so important. Focus on telling stories about your programs and beneficiaries rather than about your organization. At GlobalGiving, I get calls all the time from millennial supporters who want to give again to an organization but only remember the project photo and description of what the nonprofit does. Make your messaging unique so that you can keep supporters and gain new ones.

Ask for Support, Not Money
It is important to keep in mind that many millennials view their time, money, and skills as equal assets. Why not try asking them for something besides donations next time? One great idea is to give them the tools to tell your story. During your next campaign, try including some sample tweets, posts, or emails with your most powerful messaging and ask supporters to spread the word.

Here are some great tools and ideas you can test out to help you engage your millennial audience that don’t involve a donation ask:

  • Create a petition on
    • 10% of signers usually opt-in to your newsletter list so this could be a great way to engage current supporters and gain new leads.
  • Ask for feedback
    • Harness your supporters’ skills and expertise by asking for their input on your new website or video. Pro tip: use Typeforms for super speedy surveys
  • Create a fundraiser page
    • Give your supporters the tools to raise money for you! Regularly promote the fundraiser tool to your audience to give millennials some different options.
  • Post volunteer opportunities on GlobalGiving
    • Check out our instructional blog post about attracting volunteers here.

Don’t forget to document your experiments with these new tools for points in GGRewards!

The most important thing to remember about millennials is that we are not all the same. Don’t believe anyone that tells you a “secret hack” to win over an entire generation of more than 80 million people ranging from parents to kids in high school. It is more important to understand the trends and shifts in communication styles and methods that are characteristic of this generation. As with any piece of advice GlobalGiving gives, it is imperative that you test any changes to your communications or campaigns with your own donor audience.

2010 Census
GlobalGiving demographic data from representative sample via Google Analytics.

1 Comment


about 5 years ago

it is really very useful and comprehensive information i have learn a lot very great full to you thanks,

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