Giving Habits, Technology and the Millennial Misunderstanding

In a recent study focusing on the giving and technology habits of millennial donors from Achieve & Johnson Grossnickle Associates, researchers found that many people under 40 are willing to become donors but are not being approached in ways that lead to increased patronage and giving. The study found that Millennials prefer their primary contact with an organization to be Internet based, with e-mail being the preferred form of direct communication and Google searches, web pages and social media outlets ranking highest for researching organizations and building relationships. While this in itself is not shocking, the rest of the study revealed some much more interesting facts about younger donors.

  • Millennial donors were over 91% likely to give a gift to an organization when asked face-to-face, as opposed to 51% likely when asked through e-platforms, and only 17% likely when asked through direct mail.
  • When asked what type of information they wanted to see before they would give to an organization, over 53% of Millennial donors wanted financial documents and proof of stability, and 86% wanted documentation of current programs, services, and community impact.

These facts could easily represent the traditional donors of any arts organization in the United States; this similarity should be a red flag to non-profits about their misconceptions surrounding younger donors. Millennials are concerned with the health of the organization, Millennials do want to get involved, and Millennials require face-to-face personalized interactions to become donors. Studies like this help to show that Millennials are not that different from the traditional donors which arts organizations are already cultivating. The differences emerge in how Millennials prefer to gather information and communicate with organizations rather than in the information itself.

So how can arts organizations mix the technological communication preferences of Millennials with their need for face-to-face contact?

Some recommendations for communicating with Millennials:

  • E-mail annual reports instead of direct mailing them or make them available as a downloadable pdf from the organization website
  • Update projects and project outcomes on websites and blogs in real time
  • Continuously post pictures, testimonials, press and videos to social media
  • Create an interactive online environment that allows donors to feel involved with the organization even when they are not at the physical space
  • Use events, parties, fundraisers, shows, and exhibitions to begin the personal face-to-face cultivation of the new donors

The objectives of these techniques mirror traditional forms of development, but the tactics have been updated for a fresher approach reflecting the technology based millennial lifestyle.

All of these online efforts support the face-to-face meetings and personalized mailings that are already in use by many organizations. Millennials can and will support organizations that take the time to reach out to them. The misconception that Millennials are not a target market willing to donate is simply leaving cash on the table and failing to connect arts organizations with their future funding base.