Nonprofits are falling behind on attracting younger donors. Here’s how to fix that.
Updated: May 18, 2022
Evidently, from the very first introduction of technology, it has dramatically transformed a variety of sectors. However, the nonprofit sector is one yet to undergo complete digital transformation - a transformation powerful enough to bring waves of impact. At the core of technology lies a generation of younger donors, one who if nonprofit organizations are able to engage and invest building a relationship with, can bring an organization longevity and prosperity for years to come. And yes, we’re talking about Millenials and Gen Zs.
What exactly do younger donors look for?
When it comes to discerning what younger donors desire - transparency of impact is the very first layer. As found by the Globe and Mail, Millennials hold a strong role in shaping how giving will look like, and with this comes the demand of increased “Transparency and accountability around where their money goes” (Bouw). Furthermore, Millennial and Gen-Z donors want to see a direct impact of their involvement - this means nonprofits should be able to present measurable results regarding all charitable contributions received (Hoss). Even looking at the pandemic, “millennial and Gen Z gave more than any other generation during the pandemic”, highlighting the sheer generosity and economic impact of younger generations (Fisher).
In my experience, I’ve found that the younger generation is far more exposed to personal finances and business topics - truly at the palm of their hands, they have the opportunity to “google” how a business is run, access information and knowledge which perhaps would have been difficult or nonexistent not too many years ago. This increased access to information yields the power in the hand of the younger generation as they are able to quickly form expectations of how a business should be run - keeping innovation and sustainability at the forefront. Thus, while transparency and trust is important, there is another layer that goes deeper than this, which is efficiency. The younger generations expect forward-thinking and less wasteful processes - whether this is time or resources. Therefore, for nonprofit organizations, this means that even adopting technology and remote giving ability is a step in indicating to the younger generation that you are an efficient and innovative organization. A nonprofits' mere approach can be a deciding factor for millennials - 54% report that they would “give more if they were approached by charities and causes in a different manner” (Chimp). The status quo will no longer cut it.
The nonprofit sector is failing to meet a younger generation's needs.
Personally, I’ve found that the trend in the nonprofit industry is that they're so busy in the weeds of the work that they’re not looking for innovation - to the point they don’t even know where or how to look for it, and thus, are completely surprised that a platform like Geenees even exists.
Often the nonprofit sector is stuck in how things were before or unsure about how to implement new technology. For instance, looking at the Nonprofit Trends Report it was found that 85% believed technology was a critical success factor, but a mere 23% had a strategy and vision in place for using technology (Ragones). Being unable to adapt technology procedures can be a barrier when trying to engage with a younger audience as they desire one-click conveniences even when donating (Hoag). Infact, 25% only use their phones for completing donations (Pun).
Adding onto the barrier of old processes, according to Charity Village, many nonprofit organizations are still reliant on both paper and pen alongside face-to-face operations (ie. for fundraising and marketing). This is especially harmful when it comes to times like the COVID-19 pandemic where remote working took over - a trend that continues to grow, especially in the workplaces of many younger donors.
In addition to an organization’s processes, another element at play possibly preventing many organizations from failing to meet changing needs is mindset. Oftentimes many organizations adopt a short term focus, rather than investing in long term relationships. For instance, if organizations were to begin engaging younger donors today, they would be investing in a relationship that would last decades into the future. Therefore, it is important to remember donors and their donations as a longer-term plan, rather than a one-time cash injection.
What works in attracting a younger demographic?
Now, while there may be room for improvement within the nonprofit sector when it comes to adopting technology, one can look towards and learn from successful adoptions and strategies elsewhere. For example, looking towards TikTok, a social media platform, there are quite a few key takeaways. Apart from the endless scrolling which one may feel drawn to, there are core elements of the app itself (such as ease) which draw a younger generation. Currently, it is found that over 60% of its users are from Generation Z (Muliadi). A key driver of their success has been being able to create an individualized experience, one that does not make Gen Z feel like they are being sold to but rather boasts a feeling of authenticity. Additionally the app has “simple-to-use tools” which further adds to its appeal within this younger generation. Thus it is evident that organizations which are able to spark a feeling of authenticity while remaining simple to navigate can be pivotal.
Another successful example that can be explored is WealthSimple, which is within the financial services industry and primarily targets millennials. Key forces behind its success has been an “easy-to-manage interface, a digitally-engaged communication channel .. fashion forward branding and social media” (Tell). In addition to this, many millennials are drawn towards Wealthsimple due to the concept of transparency and the app promoting not only a transparent experience but also a socially responsible one. Evidently, alongside use, transparency in practices holds weight in winning over a millennial audience.
Similar to WealthSimple, another leading company in the Financial Industry has been Tangerine, which has done a successful job in both engaging and retaining the younger generation. For instance, in a previous campaign Tangerine partnered with influencers that millennials follow and focused on a relevant topic to them (ie. saving money for big changes in their life) (Haynes). In combination with WealthSimple, both these companies have played a role in revolutionizing the financial industry - an industry that was once very old/stuck in its thinking. Strikingly similar to the current stage of the nonprofit industry. This brings to light the idea that the nonprofit sector is in need of the very same revolution, which can evidently be sought out with both a change to processes and by catering to a younger generation.
How is Geenees constantly adapting to their needs?
Using a platform like Geenees that is constantly innovating to reflect the future, a nonprofit organization can indicate to millennial and Gen Z donors that they align with the core values of trust, honesty, transparency and impact, as these are all elements Geenees prioritizes. For instance, using our platform, you are able to share the true need and stories of the families and stories - opening up the door for younger donors to get to know you and your work. To further support this notion, each organization and family can actually send back a thank you note to donors for them to truly feel the measurable impact behind their contribution, while further highlighting the notion of transparency.
Furthermore, Geenees allows nonprofit organizations to break geographical boundaries and reflect the one-click convenience the younger generation desires. Traditionally when fundraising or raising in-kind donations face to face, an organization may have been confined to its surrounding community and donors. However, with adopting a tech-forward platform like Geenees, donors can give towards your organization’s essential wishlists from any corner of North America and the comfort of their own home and through a click of a button.
Finally, organizations listed on Geenees exhibit a fresh and innovative perspective. To expand this idea, it shows that the organization is pushing boundaries of what was previously the status quo for donations. It signals to millennials and Gen Z (who are more aligned with innovation and trying new apps) that the organization is willing to think differently to make old processes better and are more future forward.
So what’s next?
As a nonprofit organization, it comes down to first understanding both the importance and power of these expectations the younger generation has set forth, and how they can actually drive for more sustainable processes going forward. Thus, as an industry striving to contribute positive impact to those in need, the solution lies in change to meet these expectations.
It is vital that we shift our goal from remaining stagnant with inflexible procedures to adapting, showing efficiency and to showing the millennials and generation Z donors that we are innovating to create a giving experience that keeps a waste-free and sustainable nature at its core. One they can certainly partake in.
The reality is that now more than ever, a nonprofit organization cannot remain stagnant in their ways - especially when many around them will evidently adopt more technology forward procedures. Therefore, adopting platforms such as Geenees which are pioneers of the new age of giving and align directly with a younger demographic is essential to success.
Check out more on how you can get listed on Geenees by clicking the button below!
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Bouw, Brenda. “When Giving to Charity, Millennials Want Transparency and Accountability.” The Globe and Mail, 22 Dec. 2016, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/globe-investor/personal-finance/genymoney/when-it-comes-to-charitable-giving-millenials-want-transparency-and-accountability/article33399509/.
Chimp. “Finances and Lack of Confidence Prevent Many Millennials from Donating to Charity.” Cision Canada, 21 Dec. 2018, https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/finances-and-lack-of-confidence-prevent-many-millennials-from-donating-to-charity-662265763.html.
Fisher, Joe. “Council Post: How Millennials and Gen Z Are Revolutionizing the Philanthropic World.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Aug. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/08/20/how-millennials-and-gen-z-are-revolutionizing-the-philanthropic-world/?sh=3d2586eb562d.
Haynes, Megan. “When Social Content Does the Heavy Lifting.” Strategy, 2 Mar. 2017, https://strategyonline.ca/2017/03/02/when-social-content-does-the-heavy-lifting/.
Hoag, Crystal. “How to Engage the Younger Generation of Donors and Why That's Important.” FundEasy, FundEasy, 25 June 2021, https://fundeasy.com/blog/engage-younger-generations-of-donors.
Hoss, Shelley. “Council Post: The Future of Giving: Trends Shaping next-Gen Philanthropy.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Dec. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2021/12/27/the-future-of-giving-trends-shaping-next-gen-philanthropy/?sh=543cfc9b1b88.
Muliadi, Bradian. “Council Post: What the Rise of TikTok Says about Generation Z.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 July 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/07/07/what-the-rise-of-tiktok-says-about-generation-z/?sh=23c1d9586549.
Pun, Elizabeth. “How to Engage Different Generations of Donors.” Classy, 21 Dec. 2018, https://www.classy.org/blog/how-to-engage-different-generations-of-donors/.
Ragones, David. “Nonprofits Value Technology, Lack Strategy to Implement ...” Philanthropynewsdigest, 21 Feb. 2020, https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/nonprofits-value-technology-lack-strategy-to-implement-report-finds.
Tell, Caroline. “Wealthsimple Knows How Millennials Want To Invest.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Sept. 2018,