The Future of Nonprofits: Reaching Younger Donors

A client told me recently that I am very intuitive, and asked if I was good at “reading tea leaves,” too. As someone who uses tea bags, and not loose tea leaves, I told her that may be difficult for me!

The concept stuck with me though, and came up again while I was reviewing the report, The Next Generation of American Giving: The Charitable Habits of Generations X, Y, Baby Boomers, and Matures, for my previous blog post.

My last discussion centered around the need for nonprofits to focus on the Boomer generation, which contributed 43% of all giving in 2012.

Today, however, I am interested in the giving patterns of the younger donors and generations. What do the study findings on the Generations X and Y giving mean for the future of our nonprofits?

Across the generations, we find that the largest percentage of donors tend to support social service charities, houses of worship, and health organizations. However, when we look at the data, we see the following trends emerge:

  • Generation Y is less likely to support local social services and environmental causes.
  • Generation X and Generation Y are most likely to support children’s charities and human rights and international causes.
  • Veteran’s causes are mostly supported by Boomers and Matures.

Taking into account what we see about the X and Y generations, your future younger donors, how does this affect the future of social service organizations, faith-based groups, and health organizations?

Donors under 35 are more likely to respond positively to social event fundraising (like the upcoming Giving Tuesday), and personal communications like peer-to-peer fundraising. This means organizations should be focused on engaging these donors in a more personal and social way.

Of course, most of us are focused on reaching out to the Boomers, as they are a larger cohort with a larger giving capacity. While it is important to continue soliciting these larger amounts from them, we also need to continue working to “fill the funnel” with potential younger donors.

From my “reading of the tea leaves,” peer-to-peer fundraising is the answer.

No one knows for sure how this will play out in the future, but in the meantime, may I pour you a cup of tea?