31st October 2017Terry O’Toole
Making ‘The Ask’ of Young Donors
Terry has 7 years’ experience in US educational fundraising where he focused on reunion, capital, and planned giving strategy for donors to New England preparatory schools. He graduates from the LSE in December with a MSc from the Management, Organisations, and Governance programme.
Nonprofit strategy for young constituents is so often built on engagement and without solicitation. In this piece, Terry O’Toole suggests that we need to change tack.
“Young donors can be encouraged to give through illustrations of tangible impact, participation in physical activities, and…simply, cash donations.”
Young people don’t have money. This is a sentiment shared by many nonprofits. In several conferences I’ve attended in recent years as an educational fundraiser there has often been a breakout session focused on engaging young alumni. However, the topic of engagement doesn’t always include gift solicitation. Why not?
The question of capacity amongst millennials should not be undervalued. Research from Deloitte and UBS studies shows that millennial wealth could range from $19T to $24T by 2020 (Deloitte, 2016) (UBS, 2017). Much of this wealth will be “driven by inheritance, entrepreneurial activities, and income growth” (Franck, 2017).
Interestingly, cash giving is the primary means of donating for many donors, especially young people. 58% of all donors and 63% of 16-24 year old donors prefer to make cash donations to UK organisations (NPT and CAF, 2017). While it may seem old-fashioned, cash donations are still a predominant form of giving and should be encouraged.
While wealth from inheritance and entrepreneurial profit is likely to be in the hands of a small number of young people, there is also willingness across the majority to make a gift—over 50% of millennials surveyed in the 2015 Millennial Impact Report would make monthly nonprofit gifts and 84% of respondents made a nonprofit gift in 2014 (MIR 2015). Further, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) reported that on average in 2016 “16-24 year olds [gave] a mean amount of £30 [and] the median amount given by 16-24s [was] £10” (CAF, 2017).
Perhaps this is a perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. An organisation’s reluctance to ask young people will produce figures showing that young people don’t give. But across the sector we see that there is propensity in the demographic to give, that young people have the desire to make a gift, and—most importantly—in most cases they are already doing so.
Over the summer we spoke to people who are working at the forefront of this issue. Repeatedly we heard that young people want to be involved more than anything, and that there is enormous energy amongst young people towards charitable causes—whether that is volunteering, organising events, or setting up their own fundraising drive for a particular cause. However the fundraising challenge for the non-profit sector is to convert that energy into gifts.
One solution we see time and time again is the idea of ‘micro-campaigning’. Importantly however it is individuals, not organisations, who organise most of the micro-campaigns. Examples include fundraising through JustGiving, organising charity fundraising from peers in corporate offices, or students fundraising through university RAG (Raise and Give) societies.
These micro-campaigns give young people engagement with causes they care about, along with autonomy and a sense of personal fulfilment. For instance, Hubbub, a leading crowdfunding provider in the education and nonprofit sector, has found that using road races to raise money has been an effective approach in engaging and generating gifts from young donors. Food drives and other volunteer work sessions can also have the same effect of stimulating gifts.
This tells us that we should be treating giving, like attending events, as another form of engagement. It’s not the gift amount; it’s the act that attracts young people. In a digital world where the tools are available to campaign and raise money, increasingly organisations need to supply the vision, content and framework for micro-campaigns. In doing so they will be able to harness that energy so evident in young people.
This is a break from the large-charity single vision such as “end all poverty”. It is about breaking the charity’s vision into smaller ‘products’ and empowering young people to coalesce around each, infusing it with their energy. In doing so, young peoples’ propensity and willingness to give and to get others to give will flow into your organisation.