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That’s china, with a lower case “c” as in a set of fancy, old plates, not the country. Allow me to explain, this morning on my commute to work, I read yet another article about how Millennials are eschewing their parents’ Royal Doulton figurines and heirloom china in favour of minimalist lifestyles. Apparently this applies even to the lucky few who are home owners. The article, like many others that have been written over the last few years, suggests that this is the case because Millennials value experiences more than things (especially Instagrammable experiences).

This is a lesson that we, in the fundraising sector, must take to heart. As fundraisers, it is crucial that we take our cues from the daily habits of our donors outside of the non-profit sector. Newsflash, human behavior does not change drastically simply because someone is giving to a good cause!

As a 30-something year old, who often has to remind others she’s a Gen Y not a Millennial, I can tell you that I have far too often received fundraising appeals that are directed at someone twice my age. Return address labels, greeting cards, key chains…ugh! If I don’t want my family’s tchotchkes, do you think I want yours unnamed but well intentioned non-profit?!

It’s high time for us to start segmenting by age and stage of life when it comes to our mid-level giving strategies. Millennial and Gen Y donors have no interest in freebies. Indeed, receiving these things may make donors under the age of 35 less likely to continue to give to your cause. Subsequently, this will likely cause them to question how you are spending their hard earned donations.

Instead, we must start speaking to them in a way that appeals to them. Why not send them an invitation to experience your cause in a hands on manner? For example, if you work for a health based charity that partakes in research & care, plan an opportunity for donors to do basic health science experiments with some of the young researchers. I assure you from my own experience, not only will your young professional donors relish this opportunity to deepen their understanding of the cause, they will Instagram, Tweet and Facebook about it and create fantastic earned publicity for your cause.

These opportunities exist within many non-profit organizations but are often offered exclusively to major donors who are frankly so saturated with opportunities to don fake scrubs or swing a hammer that they often do not attend or appreciate these events. Reimagining these events could allow you to organically grow young professional ambassadors for your cause. And we all know how much Millennials love anything organic…

Hava Goldberg is a passionate fundraiser and community builder who is currently the Senior Development Officer, Community Engagement at the Sinai Health Foundation. She is a proud alumunus of the University of Guelph and holds a Masters in Non-Profit Management (specializing in Jewish Communal Services) from Spertus College (Chicago). Hava has worked in the non-profit sector for nine years and in fundraising for the last four years. She has been an active volunteer and fundraiser for as long as she can remember.

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