Engaging Millennial Donors

millennial donors

When I made the decision to pursue a career in nonprofit fundraising, a common response was, “People your age don’t want to donate.” When I decided to focus my graduate work on Millennial donors, a common response was, “Do they even donate?” As a Millennial myself, I felt as though people had a negative opinion of my generation’s financial commitment to social causes. It became clear to me that Millennials do donate and want to support nonprofit organizations and charities. However, they do it in a different way.

When engaging Millennial donors in giving, it is important to take them seriously. This is a group of individuals that are entering into their careers in a time of social media and technology. It is necessary to recognize that their behaviors differ from traditional donors and accept the fact that neither generation is better or worse at donating. We need to take the time to engage this new generation and show them how much we need their support.

Tips to Engage Millennial Donors:

1. Make Your Mission Clear 

For a generation that gets most of its news in 140 characters or less, brevity is essential.

2. Connect Through Social Media 

Social media may seem like old news at this point, but when was the last time you were commuting and didn’t check Facebook or Twitter? By creating a cohesive and vocal social media presence, you can display the effectiveness of your nonprofit in real time. It also gives you the ability to share things you would normally send in an email. For example, by posting your annual report on Facebook, you deliver your message quickly and give your followers the ability to share with their personal networks. This can ultimately increase the number of people who engage with your work.

3. Rethink Events 

Galas and silent auctions play an important role in nonprofit development. These events allow donors to give in a comfortable and traditional setting. For Millennials, we may not be able to afford a gala table or want to bid on a fine bottle of wine. Fundraising events can look very different for younger generations. One thing Millennials can give without much difficulty is their time. Try putting together a volunteer day for young adults. This will connect people to your organization without obligating them to spend money.

4. Show Clear Results 

Putting a face on your organization’s impact can deeply influence your donor network. Delivering a success story on Facebook or sharing an article about your programs on Twitter shows Millennials that their donations directly impact the success of your organization. Proudly showcase how their giving can truly make a difference!

5. Encourage Transformational Giving 

Fundraisers often discuss transformational giving vs. transactional giving. Transactional giving refers to giving a donation with the expectation that the nonprofit will provide you with perks – a party, tickets to an event, even something as small as a t-shirt. When we move towards transformation giving, the donation is given altruistically without expectation that the donor will receive something in return. Millennials have grown up witnessing years of transactional giving, but that may not be the most effective approach. The message that a gift is given purely in support of an organization with a powerful mission can be more inspiring for a generation whose values include transparency and effectiveness.

When it comes to taking the time to engage Millennial donors, consider this: a Millennial at the beginning of their career may be only able to donation $25 this year. But if they develop a meaningful relationship with your organization early on, they may be able to contribute more as their career progresses. Regardless of the amount of a donation, you have created a relationship that could last for decades to come.



Kendall Bilbro is the Coordinator of Individual Giving for Lookingglass Theatre Company. Kendall identifies, solicits, and cultivates relationships with the Lookingglass Watermark Society as well as plans donor fulfillment events. Kendall also serves as liaison to the Board of Directors, coordinating their activities and stewarding their benefits. She holds a M.A. of Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship and a B.A. in Political Science from North Central College in Naperville, IL.