Prospect Research & Management, Strategic Planning

When I think of the next generation of donors, I think of individuals who were raised in an on-demand culture and have been shaped by social media, mobile technology, a post 9/11 world, and a deep recession. They are self-starters, self-learners, and self-motivators. Universal connectivity, highly curated global information, on-demand video, and 24/7 news cycles are intrinsic to this generation.

Why do non-profit leaders need to better understand this generation? For one thing, next gen donors are expected to inherit an estimated $59 trillion dollars by 2061 and it is estimated that they will allocate almost half that sum to charitable causes. Another reason involves understanding how these donors are approaching philanthropy. This generation is seeking impact. They want to revolutionize philanthropy to make it more effective. They are more strategic in their giving, and they want to innovate through philanthropy. New gen donors seek deeper engagement in the organizations that they fund. Past generations made charitable gifts to organizations they knew. They trusted that their gifts would be used wisely.

According to philanthropy experts, Goldseker and Moody, in their book, “Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving”, next generation donors strive to engage in political organizing, advocacy work, giving circles, social enterprises, social businesses, and impact investing. “This generation believes in living their values seamlessly across all areas of their lives, as donors, consumers, patents, and business people.”

As you think about this important group of donors and prospective donors, I know some of these ideas might cause you to think and act differently about this new breed of donor.

5 Ideas to Engage Donors

  1. Consider creating giving circles within your organization where individuals come together to pool their charitable dollars. They decide together what projects to fund and learn together about your organization. This generation is looking for meaningful connections with peers in similar situations of philanthropic affluence so that they can connect personally.
  2. Invite a young business leader to host a specific event at your organization. They would invite their networks to learn more about your cause. This will give you insight and perspective on how the younger generation understands the values of your organization.
  3. Offer distinctive opportunities for hands on experiences impacting the lives of people your organization serves. Examples include, hosting site visits, offering behind-the-scenes tours, and opportunities for direct interactions with the people you serve.
  4. Create unique volunteer opportunities that will magnify how your organization is impacting and solving real life problems. Seek the volunteers’ advice for helping solve these problems.
  5. As the most-networked generation in history, donors in their 20’s and 30’s want to integrate their personal and professional networks with their philanthropic interests. By presenting them with opportunities to use their skills, networks, and expertise before asking them for a gift will deepen their engagement with your organization.

It is clear that we are living in a time of unprecedented wealth creation. If non-profit leaders can embrace what is important to new gen donors, there will be a tremendous opportunity for meaningful philanthropy for both the next gen donors as well as the organizations they support.