Millennials: A Participation Growth Story

Last year, 87% of all Millennials in the US, ages 18-34, gave to a non-profit. Half of them gave more than $100 and nearly a quarter gave over $500.

Let me repeat: Nearly 1/4th (22%) of Millennials in the US last year gave more than $500.

Millennials, who are the largest generation in American history and constitute the entirety of your young alumni base are giving and those gifts aren't so small. 74MM young people are out there, many of them college grads, and they're the most philanthropic generation of youth in memory.

So, what's the path forward? How do we get them engaged with their alma maters?

Easy. Get to know them. Talk to them where they are. Here are some great thoughts and tactics for reaching young alumni (and we hope you'll add some below):

  1. A quote from Gail Perry: "Good fundraising is all about involving the donor — not just asking for money.” Alumni are ready to get involved, so let them do so in ways that speak to them. Would they like to help recruit new students? Mentor current students? Refer other alumni to jobs where they work? Or join a local chapter? Ask them and they'll tell you how they want to walk through your door the first time.
  2. Per Achieve's CEO, Derrick Feldman: "Millennials view voice and network as equal to money, all available to be used for an issue side by side with an organization.” This is a key underpinning to why the #ALSicebucketchallenge worked so well. It was about a network being "donated" as much as dollars were. Are you engaging young donors in a way that earns the right to be shared with their private network? Think about how someone would answer that question with regards to your appeals. Kathleen Kelly Janus has shared some similar points on the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
  3. Given that this tech-savvy generation is looking for other means to walk through your doors the first time, why not let them donate their social media and digital skills? Could you create a committee of young alumni to co-own your social media accounts or a digital peer-to-peer campaign? If you post a message to your organization's Facebook feed, only 1.2% of your followers will see that post. But if you email that post to your digital committee to post to their own networks, your message is going to spread like wildfire.

The overarching point is that your young alumni are overwhelmingly philanthropic and are looking, often, for a non-financial path through your doors. Mix it up, let them take leadership roles in chapters and other committees, and, by all means, hand over the reigns a bit. You might be surprised by what Millennials can and will do for you when they have a sense of ownership.

Nick Zeckets