13 Ways to Inspire and Engage Younger Donors

by | Jan 26, 2023

Ignore all the warning signs at your own peril. If the average age of your donors is creeping up year after year, it could indicate that your organization struggles to connect with younger generations.

Before you panic, understand that this disconnect between nonprofits and younger donors is an age-old problem. Still, it’s too important of an issue to overlook—especially with a massive generational wealth transfer on the horizon. For nonprofits to be successful in fundraising with younger audiences, nonprofits need to toss out the old playbook and be willing to embrace the new.

Here are a baker’s dozen of ideas and tactics that can help your nonprofit attract, engage, and win over Millennial and Gen Z donors, without having to completely rehaul your team’s overall strategy.

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Who Counts as a Younger Donor?

When we generalize about donor demographics, it’s important to keep in mind that no two donors are exactly alike. For every trend and industry average, there are always going to be anomalies. So just as age might only be a number when it comes to fundraising, it’s similarly true that nobody can determine who is a “younger donor” to your organization except for you. 

Young donors could include anyone that is below the average age of a donor, which is currently 65 years old. Ultimately, your organization knows its needs best and should determine which groups need more attention from your fundraising team. In this article, we’re focused on the two youngest generations of givers, Millennials and Gen Z.

Millennials

The Millennial generation was once known for being the “me” generation, but they have proven to be highly charitable, especially as they start to hit their peak earning years, with 84% of Millennials giving to charity. 

As you engage with Millennials, keep in mind that they are set to inherit a major wealth transfer in the coming years—and they have the potential to become your major gift givers in the near future. 

Generation Z

Presently, the Gen Z cohort are the youngest age group making a difference through charitable giving. Thought of as being a bit more realistic than their more optimistic Millennial peers, Generation Z has an unbridled passion for change, as evidenced by their giving habits and strong beliefs in making a personal impact on the issues they care about. 

Generation Z is represented by tech-savvy, generous teens and twenty-somethings that want to bring about positive change in the world. 

Why Do New, Young Donors Matter for Nonprofits?

No matter their age, donors are paramount to the success of the entire nonprofit sector—U.S. donors gave a whopping $484.85 billion to charities in 2021.

But without engaging potential donors early on, while their philanthropic interests are still developing, you could be missing out on a critical moment to steward them into your most loyal supporters as they reach their peak earning years and beyond.

Lack of relationship building and relying too much on major donors are two of the most common reasons why nonprofits fail.

So how can you set your team up for success in the future? By taking the time now to develop meaningful connections with these younger donors, you can better prepare to ask them to support and advocate for your cause in the years (and even decades) ahead.

What Do Young Donors Seek from Charities?

These younger generations see themselves as philanthropists, activists, and all-around changemakers. As donors, they don’t just want to donate their money. Increasingly, these donors want to be included as participants in your organization’s impact. In practice, this can mean engaging them through meaningful volunteer activities that leverage their existing skills. 

If your nonprofit already has a national volunteering day, for example, consider how you might be able to develop project-based volunteering opportunities that can provide more meaningful engagement than a one-day effort. 

But that’s only one example of the many ways you can start to connect with Millennial and Gen Z audiences.

As your nonprofit tries out new methods for inspiring younger donors, take an optimist’s approach and don’t feel too wedded to one strategy immediately. It may take some trial and error to figure out which tactics make a good fit for your organization’s ethos and your donors’ interests. The important thing is to try and not to stress about failing once or twice.

13 Ideas for Attracting and Engaging Younger Donors

1. Refresh your website

Let’s face it, Millennial and Gen Z donors are unlikely to write your nonprofit a check. They’ll probably search on Google for your website or click a link from social media, then scan through it to help them decide whether or not to support your cause. There is a good chance they will be using their smartphone.

Like it or not, your website’s design will have some influence over that decision. Some donors will be checking to see that site is up to date and your mission statement is clearly visible. Others may be turned off by a website that isn’t optimized for mobile users.

Before the year-end fundraising season, take time to audit your website to ensure that you have a mobile-friendly UX (on your donation page, at the very least) and that your homepage helps visitors navigate through your site intuitively.

2. Make your thank-you page engaging and thoughtful

Don’t let your donation page be a letdown. Making a charitable donation of any amount is a big decision and may be accompanied by nerves or a rush of adrenaline.

So use your thank you page to give your donors a shot of emotion and express your gratitude—in other words, remind them why they supported your organization in the first place.

If your donation tools support it, personalize your “thank you” page with your donor’s first name. You could also provide a social share link so that your donors can seamlessly post about their donation, or include video or powerful imagery, or links to learn more about how their gift will be used.

3. Become a transparent organization

While some donors give to the same organization every year for decades, younger donors are more eager to see the impact of their charitable contributions.

According to a recent report, 40% of Millennial and Gen Z donors conduct “a lot of research” into nonprofits and charities before making a donation.

To earn their donation, you’ll have to be clear about where your donations are going. Be upfront about how much of your revenue goes to administrative, fundraising, operations, and so on.

They will also want to hear from authentic voices about your mission and operations. What do the people that your charity serves have to say about your impact? Letting others speak on your behalf can prove to donors that you’re achieving your organization’s goals in the real world.

4. Provide ways to give that aren’t just money

As the saying goes, time is your most precious asset. 70% of Gen Z and millennial donors say that they would rather donate their time over money.

Offering other ways for donors to get involved with your mission should be obvious, but it can be hard to make it happen without buy-in from your organization’s leadership.

Start small: ask for volunteers to help with your team’s in-person or virtual events, or find skill-based projects that your young volunteer can help with, like drafting social media captions or reaching out to program alumni for testimonials.

Depending on your mission, you could also accept in-kind donations of materials like books, clothing, and unused toiletries.

5. Share an inside view of your organization

Your most passionate donors likely want to understand the inner workings of your organization. This can help strengthen the connection between donors and your cause, and there are plenty of low-lift ways to do so.

Your nonprofit could organize exclusive webinars with your CEO or President with a Q&A session, or an in-person event at your office or headquarters where donors can meet staff and learn about their different roles.

Is your leadership particularly interested in making a good impression with young donors? Invite supporters to participate in a meet-and-greet with your board of directors. Or, elect a young ambassador to serve on your board in a formal capacity.

6. Personalize your communications

Today, most mass email solutions offer personalization options, and your nonprofit should take advantage of those tools to increase email open rates and foster deeper connections with donors.

You can customize your donor outreach by making use of whatever data points you have about your supporters, including their name, city, age and previous donations. Personalization isn’t just limited to the content of emails. You can choose to segment donors to decide which messages they receive, how often, and even what time of day.

Above all, the top priority should be addressing your donors as personally as you can so that they will feel good about the organization they’re supporting.

7. Leverage storytelling

Humans are emotional beings. We don’t simply give out of a sense of duty; most donors are, in some way or another, influenced by their feelings. Telling a story can sway donors that are on the fence about supporting your cause.

Your nonprofit doesn’t need videos with high production values or fancy infographics. At the core of your story should be a clear message that your donors can connect with easily.

How are your donors changing lives? How are their gifts essential to fulfilling your mission? You can put these stories everywhere: in emails, on social media and on your website’s blog.

8. Embrace social activism

In this day and age, it’s common for corporate brands and even mom-and-pop businesses to speak up about social issues. This can put an expectation on charitable, mission-driven organizations to do the same.

Your nonprofit may want to stay in its lane, and that’s totally fine. But your organization may also want to use its platform to comment on current events and serve as a thought leader for the issues that are central to your mission.

Lifting the voices of key spokespeople and influencers can help your organization test out these kinds of messages. Or, you can survey your donors to find out what kind of issues they care most deeply about, to find out which causes your nonprofit might want to become more vocal about.

9. Offer support for non-cash asset donations

Many nonprofits bury details about their stock acceptance policy, assuming that only major donors want to donate stock. This is a potentially costly mistake that can severely limit your charity’s donation revenue.

Young people, especially Millennials, are avid investors in stocks and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. They know the benefits of donating non-cash assets, particularly that it can be a highly tax-efficient way to support their favorite causes.

To give your young donors a premium donation experience, provide an easy way for donors to choose which assets they want to give.

10. Enable peer-to-peer fundraising

Ready to let your most passionate donors become your brand ambassadors? Consider offering peer-to-peer fundraising options.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising is a powerful tool that helps nonprofits tap into their current supporters’ existing networks. It’s a relatively low-bandwidth way to generate additional donation revenue, by adding a social element to charitable giving.

Signing up with a reliable P2P fundraising platform can strengthen your donor relationships by enabling them to become more personally invested in your cause. Encourage donors to launch a fundraiser to recognize birthdays, anniversaries, or other major life events or milestones.

11. Use social media authentically

Millennials and Gen Z are the power users of social media. They influence the trends on apps like Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, and expect brands to market to them, including charities.

If your nonprofit has had a tenuous relationship with social media, try committing to one platform. Not sure which one? Ask your supporters which platforms they use most.

Take your team’s capacity into consideration. If your team has limited graphic design bandwidth, for example, leaning heavily on Instagram Stories may not be the best bet. On the flip side, if your organization excels at longform storytelling, LinkedIn may be a perfect platform to try.

12. Emphasize security

Building trust is an important aspect for acquiring new, younger donors, especially when it comes to online security. Digital-native generations grew up being vigilant about hacks, malware, scams, and data breaches.

As a result, they have high standards for data protection and privacy, and rightfully so. Millennials in particular are less trusting of online banking than their parents. So what can your nonprofit do to show it prioritizes security?

Use trusted platforms to process your donors’ donations, and be clear about what kind of data you collect, and how it will be used. When they sign up to receive emails, be explicit about what kinds of communications they will receive. Provide options for unsubscribing or updating their email preferences. These are just a few of the many ways you can maximize your security protocols and ease donors’ minds.

13. Create a culture of recognition

It may be a generalization, but Millennials and Gen Z appreciate recognition for their donations. Traditionally, major donors have been acknowledged with personal phone calls and mentions in annual reports.

For this digital native audience, there are countless ways to get creative beyond sending a simple email, which you should be doing anyway. You could tag them in a thank you post on social media, for example, or publish a wall of gratitude on your website.

Do you have extra swag from an in-person event? Send your donors some merch as a small token of your gratitude.

You don’t need to spend any money to make your donors feel special. You could coordinate a day when your staff calls donors to personally thank them and discuss the work they’re doing.

Are You Ready to Win Over Young Donors?

Millennial and Generation Z donors want to feel included, recognized, and empowered by the nonprofits they support. They expect modern, mobile friendly websites with top-notch security and multiple ways to donate, from peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to cryptocurrency donations.

The Giving Block’s nonprofit fundraising solution supports P2P fundraisers, credit cards, stock and cryptocurrency donations. With plenty of additional features and integrations that make your team’s workflow seamless, you can spend less time on admin tasks and more time inspiring the next generation of donors.

Talk with our team to learn more about our product and find a solution that fits your nonprofit’s needs.

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