Millennials Give The Least, Want Money Used Wisely

April 15, 2015       Patrick Sullivan      

You might want to put down the phone, or delay that mailing by a month or two. Nonprofits are 10 times more likely than donors to think the organization is not communicating enough with donors. For its first donor engagement study, Austin, Texas-based fundraising and software firm Abila surveyed more than 1,200 donors across four generational cohorts, as well as managers at 206 nonprofits with revenues ranging from $1 million to $49 million.

Some 42 percent of nonprofit respondents believe they were not communicating with donors enough, compared to just 4 percent of donors. More than one-quarter of donors responded that nonprofits were communicating too much, versus 12 percent of nonprofits. “Just right” was cited most by both donors (65 percent) and nonprofits (38 percent). “More is not necessarily better. This is one area of major misalignment between donors and the organizations they support,” wrote report authors Tad Druart and Rich Dietz.

Millennials, unsurprisingly, gave the least amount per year ($644.92) to the fewest organizations (2.93). That amount per year is less than half the $1,435.31 in average yearly giving from Matures, born before 1946. Matures gave to an average of 3.21 nonprofits per year. Baby Boomers gave $1,248.80 per year on average to 3.14 organizations, and Gen X-ers gave $1,033.28 to 2.95 nonprofits. Only Millennials felt most connected to the organizations they support when volunteering. The other cohorts felt the best way to feel involved was to donate.

Donors are most concerned that their money is used wisely. Some 71 percent called it a top priority. Other top priorities include: the organization has a good reputation (69 percent); the donor has a strong belief in the nonprofit’s mission and cause (68 percent); and the donor’s support makes a difference (53 percent).

Texting and phone calls were donors’ least favorite methods of communication, with 65 percent of respondents saying either “Make it stop” or “Not for me.” Social media and canvassing also scored low in desirability. Radio and TV ads, direct mail, peer-to-peer fundraising and thank-you notes and calls were donors’ favored communication channels; more than 80 percent of donors said to either keep messages on these channels coming or that every once in a while is ok.

Financial contributions and volunteering made donors feel the most involved. Donors also liked personal stories, status updates and thank-you notes and gifts. Networking events and being engaged via text and social media were the least effective methods for making donors feel involved. Donors also want to donate goods and services, display support by buying products, and add a donation at checkout more often than they are usually asked to do by a nonprofit.

About half of donors, or 52 percent, don’t believe that organizations take their communications preferences into account. That same percentage of nonprofits said they don’t take their donors’ preference into account when they’re planning campaigns. Four out of five organizations target what they send to donors by donation amount. Targeting by content or interest was also widely utilized, at 63 percent, as was targeting by demographics, 54 percent. Only about one-third of organizations targeted by age and birth year.

For the full report, go to