Millenials Plus Tech Don’t Equal Cash

Like each generation before it, the Millennial Generation will bring its own unique characteristics and preferences to the world of philanthropy. Millennials are those born roughly between 1980 and 2000, making them anywhere from 13 to 34 this year.

A panel of nonprofit experts tackled the topic of “The Power of Technology and the Millennial Generation” on Friday during the second day of the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C.

The panel was comprised of James Shim, digital media manager, Pathways to Education Canada; Caryn Stein, director of content strategy for Network for Good; Becky Leven, strategic development, Tendenci; Todd Baylis, president of Qgiv; Michael Rubio, senior program manager at ZeroDivide, and John Clese, director of marketing, strategic initiatives, for Avectra.

The panel presented millennial traits, as outlined in “Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement,” to include the following:

  • Entitled
  • Optimistic
  • Civic-minded
  • Close parental involvement
  • Value work-life balance
  • Impatient
  • Multi-tasking
  • Team-oriented

“If you have a good story to tell, don’t be afraid to tell is,” said Leven. Despite the shortening of attention spans and growth of short communications tools like Twitter, long-form video is making a comeback, she said.

Millennials are more likely to give unrestricted gifts, Stein said, and like to see the impact of their gift and how their donations are specifically being used.

Shim gave the example of charity:water and its birthday campaign, in which supporters tell friends that they give up their birthday and instead ask for donations. By easily sharing via social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Shim said it’s like a “humblebrag” for both the supporter (“I’m giving up my birthday”) and the donor (“I’m a philanthropist now”). Another panelist pointed to charity:water’s structuring, using corporate sponsors to fund the operational component, allowing 100 percent of gifts to be used toward program. That led to a discussion about Millennials and their view of nonprofits’ “overhead.”

Millennials understand how nuanced overhead can be, rather than strictly being good or bad, according to Rubnio. If the issue resonates enough with a Millennial, he said, they’ll be interested enough to research more until they know it.

Leven said the sector will continue to struggle with overhead, especially since Millennials like to see where their donations are going and how they’re being used. Depending on the overhead percentages, she said Millennials could still feel like their gifts are not being used in the most impactful way.