Aug 20, 2019

Millennials and the future of fundraising


The following is written from the perspective of Kelsey Woodworth; GiveSmart’s Content Marketing Manager, Event Specialist, and well…millennial.   

Millennials (born 1981-1996, according to Pew Research Center) are one of the most analyzed generations. As baffling as we are to some, we’re on a mission to improve our communities, connect with one another, speak out about mental health, clean up our oceans, reduce waste, and source things ethically. Overall, we’re more likely to value charitable giving opportunities that help us learn and expand a sphere of influence. This is demonstrated through our purchasing habits but also with the companies we build and the careers we cultivate.  

We admit it; we like to have dogs, ping pong, and kegs in the office. Aside from that, it’s clear to see how millennials are changing tech and media, among other industries, which leads me to wonder; how will we shape the future of nonprofits?  

I checked in with millennials, who work full time for nonprofit organizations, to find out… 


Millennial fundraisers are hosting more casual and experience-based events, such as happy hours, dog walks, workshops, fashion shows, and music festivals. Grassroots campaigns and crowdsourcing are popular too, given our abilities to connect farther and faster with today’s technology. Fundraisers are getting a jump on funding by connecting with people who are invested, which is ultimately speedier than waiting for grants to come in.  

In order to move fundraising forward, “you have to be creative within the constraints that are given,” says Kayla Laing, youth navigator and rapid rehousing case manager for Noank Community Support Services (NCSS). “It’s important to find new ways to reach out to larger donors, not just face-to-face interactions. Showcase what you’re doing in the community, use social media, and don’t ignore the donation button on Facebook.”  


Photo: New England Science & Sailing


Awareness is the first, and most important step. Be out there. Get local media coverage. Create social media channels. Think about the ways that someone in your community will search for your mission, and then meet them where they’re looking. It’s critical to your organization’s survival that your community knows you exist. Millennials might drive the social media force but think about community members who still pick up a newspaper daily and watch the local news. “I don’t think that we talk about charity work enough as a society. A lot of people don’t realize how quickly a nonprofit can go under, or how easy it can be to support one,” says Jordan Slocum of New England Science and Sailing Foundation 

Working and giving. 

Millennials likely won’t be your biggest donors in terms of a one-time dollar amount, but we’re not to be overlooked. According to Community Brands’ Donor Experience Study, millennials are giving to their favorite organizations 4-10 times in one year, more annuallyand giving more volunteer hours. Not to mention, millennials are 25% of the U.S. population and will be the largest sector of the workforce by 2020. 

We’re a generation that prioritizes work with purpose and better well-being over wealth and stability. More companies are being led by people who are connected to the cause, service, or product. Tim Rabolt, Executive Director at Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) said, “my passion is growing the field of collegiate recovery and seeing students’ lives changed across the globe. The potential is limitless and to be a part of that is fulfilling on a deep level for me.” In the coming yearsRabolt hopes to see more funding from Fortune 500 companies and the top 1% but wants the right kind of funding – not overly reliant or overly risky.  

Laing says, “helping those in need lead better and more fulfilling lives is what keeps me going.” Additionally, Laing, NCSS, and other housing providers across Connecticut are committed to ending youth homelessness by 2020. It’s no small feat, but Connecticut was the first state to end veteran homelessness, so ending youth homelessness by next year isn’t out of the question.  


With tech and greater social awareness on our sidewe’re making strides and “can help people to understand that even the smallest bit of support can make a big impact,” said Slocum. However, we must continue to be strategic when it comes to getting in front of the right donors and locking in their loyalty. 

There’s an influx of innovation in fundraising and development teams out there implementing new, and sometimes unconventional, ways. “Although our annual fundraiser generates a substantial amount of money, a group of younger employees don’t think it’s adequate. We continue to propose new and innovative ideas to the management team because we want to re-shape what fundraising looks like for NCSS,” Laing said. At GiveSmart, we’re already seeing changes to traditional fundraising methods, integration of tech, redefining donor relations, and aligning social good with everyday work. Each season brings about new trends, so stay tuned – we’ll be back with more discoveries this fall. 

How are you engaging millennials? Let’s chat.


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