Generational attitudes differ when it comes to a wide range of things, from social media to shopping to entertainment. So why wouldn’t they differ when it comes to charity? Truly, the time in which a person was born impacts why, how, and when they give back. Read on to learn more about how to tailor your volunteer and fundraising programs to reach certain demographics.

Gen Z (b. 1997 - 2015)

Note: Civic Champs has previously covered engaging and retaining Gen Z volunteers in depth, so check out that blog post for more information.

Social media is your friend, especially YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. 72% of Gen Z respondents in a Points of Light survey believe social media is an important method for finding and interacting with causes they care about. Further, according to Classy’s Why America Gives 2021 report, of all generations, Gen Z is likeliest to learn about new causes to donate to via social media, with 61% responding that they do so. 

YouTube and Instagram are their top social media platforms, which should be no surprise as a 2019 Pew Research Center finding notes that 85% of teens in Gen Z use YouTube and 72% use Instagram. There is also a significant and rapidly growing Gen Z presence on TikTok. Nonprofits can utilize these platforms to rally Gen Z to their cause. The American Heart Association is an inspiring success story of social media engagement. Their collaboration with a TikToker connected them with over 24,000 new donors and helped them raise $725,000 in one month. The impact potential is high. 

Offer the option of a recurring donation. Though Gen Z is young, they are here to give. 32% are willing to donate their own money, and, according to a 2015 study on U.S. and U.K. teens, 32% already have given money to nonprofits. Even further, 38% (more than any other generation!) are likely to give a recurring donation due to the pandemic and other societal needs. Gen Z has gotten the title “philanthroteens” for a reason. Recognize that, and offer them opportunities to donate while being sensitive to their limited financial capacity.

Social justice is top-of-mind. Gen Z are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation to come of age in American history, and they view the diversification of society as positive. They are also more largely aware of racial injustice and gender nuances than previous generations (barring millennials, who have similar levels). A Door of Clubs study found that, even professionally, they are issue-driven, “passionate about making the world a better place.” The top issue that members of Gen Z  would want an employer to support is equality. It is no wonder, then, that Gen Z is the likeliest to donate to a social justice organization in 2021, with 47% saying they would do so. Nonprofit organizations looking to draw Gen Z to their causes need to know that social justice and equity are major issues for them, and appealing to these issues will grow your Gen Z support base.

Millennials (b. 1981 - 1996)

Emphasize impact. Millennials want to make change. In fact, the 2016 Millennial Impact Report found that over 70% of them believe they can moderately or significantly improve causes they care about. This pairs with their belief that people ought to help their community and the world—a belief held by 85% of millennial respondents in a 2021 Points of Light Report. They are also the generation most interested in impact investing, social philanthropy.

It should be no surprise, then, that they have a desire to see that the time and/or money that they give back is making a difference. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report reported that millennials are actually most likely to volunteer where they can see their impact have an immediate effect. In line with this, millennials are the generation most often leading mutual aid efforts, a means of creating volunteer based systems to care for communities. Thus, to have millennials join your cause, either with their time or their wallet, you should allow them to see the immediate, direct impact that they can have. This will let them know that they are making the change they hope to.

The social aspect of volunteering is attractive. The pandemic has shifted our normal in many ways, not the least of which being our professional lives. A large number of working individuals began remote work and have not gone back, including millennials. In fact, ApartmentList reported that nearly half of millennials (48%) in 2021 worked from home at least half of the time, the largest portion of any generation. Remote work is not only a professional change but a social one, too, as there is less human interaction on a daily basis. 

Volunteering can be a great solution to this. Adults under 35, a majority of which are millennials, are almost three times more likely to volunteer than others for the social benefit. Incredibly, remote workers, also largely within this age group, are almost 60% more likely to volunteer than those in the office. Millennials already want to volunteer, seeing it as the most influential action in the pandemic. Emphasizing the social aspect can bring them to your organization. Holding spaces where volunteers can work together and meet new individuals will make it that much more appealing, especially in a world where social interaction is not as widespread as it was before.

Use up-to-date donation methods. Digital donation methods are the way of the future, and your nonprofit must be open to that, especially with this generation. Civic Champs has discussed this in our 2022 Volunteering Trends blog post, but it is important enough to reiterate here. According to the Why America Gives 2021 Report, millennials are the generation that is likeliest to use newer donation means, like Paypal, Venmo, and cryptocurrency. They are also one of the two generations who were most likely to know what GivingTuesday is, a big day for virtual giving. When that November day comes along, you want millennials to choose your organization for donating their dollars, and one of the biggest reasons people may be hesitant about donating to an organization is that their preferred payment method is not an option.. Ensure that you have a variety of methods for fundraising, so that no millennial is turned away from your organization.

Gen X (b. 1965 - 1980)

Details are key. Individuals in Gen X want to give back; they have the highest volunteer rate of any generation and are the age group that contributes the most small and midlevel donations. However, they want to make sure they know whom and what they are supporting. They are pragmatic, putting “data over emotion.” QGiv’s 2020 Generational Giving Report found that 60% of Gen Xers will research an organization before donating. They are less interested in data such as financials; instead, they seek information on changemaking and leadership, as well as testimonials from personal connections or those that the organization has served. Relatedly, they will be less likely to donate to an organization if there are bad reviews on other websites or if the organization’s website is outdated. To draw Gen X to your organization, ensure that your website is clean and up-to-date, featuring your nonprofit’s success stories. Be clear about your mission, vision, and goals, and allow any Gen X visitors to easily gauge your organization’s purpose and impact.

Encourage them to continue giving and participating in your organization. Those in Gen X are selective. They would rather give their money and time to just one or two organizations than only donate money to a multitude. Indeed, Gen Xers support around half of the number of charities as those older than them do. The positive side of this, though, is that when a Gen Xer chooses your organization, they are dedicated and “brand loyal.” Philanthropy is part of their identity. According to QGiv, 73% of Gen Xers have given multiple gifts to nonprofits over a long period of time and are most likely to donate on an ongoing basis. Almost 50% of Gen X donors participate in a monthly giving program. They are open to take part in peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, most likely of any generation to raise money or volunteer for a cause or charity, and most willing of any generation to make sacrifices in order to give to charity.

Blackbaud determined Gen X to be the next big thing for philanthropy, and they could be the next big thing for your organization. Once you have made the case for why they should choose you, encourage them to take part in a monthly giving campaign or include them in various types of volunteer or fundraising events. One of the biggest reasons they do not donate to an organization twice is because they are not asked. Our advice: ask!

Use a combination of traditional and digital media to keep them engaged. Gen Xers are tech-savvy and prefer to donate online. According to QGiv, 39% are likeliest to give from a social media ask. Additionally, 19% of Gen X respondents in a Nonprofits Source report gave through Facebook, 45% participated in crowdfunding, and 31% donated because of an email request. They are one of the generations most familiar with GivingTuesday, with 33% of QGiv Gen X respondents participating. Social media, email, and digital donation methods are effective appeals to Gen Xers. At the same time, Gen Xers appreciate an offline touch. They would prefer personalized quarterly or monthly updates from organizations through the phone or direct mail. They like text messages and voice calls. The personal touch matters. It can keep Gen Xers engaged and happy with your organization.

Baby Boomers (b. 1946 - 1964)

Know that Baby Boomers are big on giving. This is in terms of volunteering (they are the generation with the second highest volunteer rate) and especially in terms of monetary donations. They are the likeliest generation to donate gifts up to $500, and, according to a 2018 Blackbaud report, responsible for 41% of all money donated to nonprofits the year prior, estimated to be a whopping $60 billion. They are the generation most likely to donate money at all, and they tend to donate to more than one organization. Nonprofits Source reports that 72% of Boomers contribute an annual average donation of $1,212 across 4.5 organizations. As such, do not be afraid to extend a fundraising ask to your Baby Boomer volunteers and donors. You can even enroll them in a recurring giving program, as they are the most likely to donate on monthly, quarterly, and annual timelines and nearly half report spots in a monthly giving program. Just know two things: they do not like to make donations with high overhead costs and do not like being asked too frequently, be sure to be cognizant of these insights as you strategize your fundraising outreach.

Maintain a good image, and be clear about your cause. Like Gen Xers, Baby Boomers make the effort to research an organization before joining forces with them. According to QGiv, 45% (almost half) of Baby Boomer respondents look up an organization before donating, checking out websites like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Google Reviews to gauge its quality. They also look toward the opinions of family and friends close to them, and they are likely to refuse a donation if their loved ones have a negative perception of the organization. Out of any other generation, they are the ones who most prefer knowing which programs their money goes toward, and they want to know that you have used their gift well. Because of all of this, your organization must maintain a good reputation with your community. Additionally, be clear about where donations go, and foster connections between your cause and your donors, as the loss of that connection is often when Baby Boomers stop supporting an organization.

Mail (snailmail and email) is the ideal medium here. Boomers are increasingly active on social media, especially Facebook. However, mail—both direct mail and email—are their preferences when it comes to learning about your organization and its needs. Baby Boomer respondents in the QGiv Generational Giving report highly indicated that information about a nonprofit organization, both initially and any updates, are best communicated through direct mail. 44% still prefer to give money using a physical check. They do not typically keep up with charities online, with just about 20% of Baby Boomers in a Blackbaud report supporting organizations through social media. If not through direct mail, they like to hear about nonprofit updates through email and phone calls, although they also use texting. They are not keen on high touch communication, so a quarterly update through direct mail or email is best for those who want them. Though the stereotype that Baby Boomers are not skilled in technology is not true, to really engage them in your organization, utilize direct mail and email to reach them in the ways that they would like to be reached.

Harness the power of these insights on generational differences to engage with your volunteers and donors more strategically than ever before. 

About the Author:
Adelyne Bejjani

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