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Giving Trends By Generation

Millennials have been blamed for killing everything: the housing market, top sheets, napkins, and even the diamond industry. However, there is one industry that millennials are not in any danger of killing: philanthropy.

Philanthropy has long been associated with privilege, power and wealth, but younger generations don’t see it that way — they have a much more inclusive view of philanthropy. Three quarters of millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) view themselves as philanthropists whereas only one third of baby boomers would classify themselves that way.

While a fundraising strategy that focuses on baby boomers might sound great because they still make up 43% of charitable giving, as they age, boomers’ wealth is being transferred to Generation X and millennials. As you consider sustaining and growing your fundraising efforts, it’s important to understand why younger donors give and what they are looking for in the organizations they donate to.

Social media

The top way that Generation X gives to charity is through social media, and according to the Generational Giving Report from Qgiv, 39% of Generation X has donated through social posts. They aren’t alone, both millennials and Generation Z conduct research through social media before donating — 22% of millennials and 57% of Gen Z said they look for impact reports to show how their gift will be used. Generation X donors are most likely to be put off by bad testimonials and negative reviews, and are much less likely to donate if your website is outdated. If your organization has an outdated website or poor social media presence, you run the risk of turning off several generations of donors.

Text and online giving

Nearly 30% of millennials prefer to donate via text or through an app, and their second-most-preferred method is giving online. By contrast, Generation X, which gives 20% of all philanthropic dollars, prefers giving online, but not through their phones. If you aren’t developing your digital fundraising campaign to include text, you could be losing out on donors under 50. Millennials are also the demographic most likely to offset the cost of processing fees, with over 60% saying they would add money to their gift to cover administrative costs. If you are not already, try offering this option because a few bucks from a large pool of donors can really add up. Over half of millennials are interested in monthly giving, so be sure to include recurring gift opportunities in your asks and donation pages.

Identity and personal relationships

Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z consider charitable giving as part of their identity. Both millennials and Gen Z are highly motivated by personal relationships with staff, so definitely consider tactics like adding staff names to email outreach. Younger generations also have a broader definition of philanthropy than previous generations, and want to be involved beyond their financial gift. Once they feel connected to an organization, they are likely to bring their entire networks with them, so it’s worth the investment in personal relationships.


Values are exceedingly important to millennial donors. In fact, values are even more important to them than a specific organization’s brand. However, millennials are more likely than previous generations to drop support of an organization if they believe the organization has misstepped and is perceived as out of line with their values. This trend stays true with Generation Z as well, who are also more concerned with causes than organizations, so make the effort to involve them so they know they're making a difference in the world.

Millennials get a bad rap for changing industries, but the research shows that for philanthropic giving, the changes are starting with the generation before them, Generation X, and only intensifying with those born after them, Generation Z. Organizations need to start shifting their strategies to include these younger donors or they will find themselves behind the curve.

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