The Y Factor

Today’s guest post comes from our partner, Bright Funds.

Millennials. Gen Y. The Facebook generation.  Whatever you call today’s teens, twenty- and thirty-somethings, they certainly constitute an increasingly powerful demographic.

Now 80 million strong, millennials are the fastest-growing part of today’s workforce and the part responsible for much of the disruptive innovation that is forever transforming the way we conduct our daily lives.  Needless to say, with increasing political influence, expanding bank accounts, and sharpening technological insights, Gen Y has significantly impacted our world today and will continue to do so.

For those of us involved in the charitable giving and philanthropy space, our (80) million dollar question is, “How we can effectively engage the mighty millennials?”  The point at which we harness the power of these individuals as a source of support for the nonprofits will undoubtedly prove monumental.

Yet, both “charitable giving” and “philanthropy” — particularly the latter term — are typically associated with an older demographic.  Philanthropy is considered by many to be an altruistic act that comes at the end, rather than the beginning, of someone’s career.

But this is changing.

Gen Y has been characterized in many ways – some more flattering than others.  While they are often accused of being entitled and self-centered (hence the name “Generation Me”), there is actually significant reason to believe that millennials are incredibly generous and a force to be reckoned with in the realm of charitable giving.

In fact, according Causecast, which references a report by The Boston Consulting Group, Gen Y cares deeply about social issues and believes involvement in causes to be a “fundamental part of life.”

And, they don’t just care – they act.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, 75% of millennials said they donated to a nonprofit in 2011. Such findings are encouraging, but more can be done to involve Gen Y in charitable giving.

Here’s what you need to know about Millennials as donors.

1. They are connected

Millennials are constantly connected to information and to each other. They are online and social media savvy. With the proliferation of smartphones, laptops and tablets, it is rare indeed when a Millennial is disconnected.   Many have spent more time chatting online than in person, done most of their learning in front of a computer screen, and visited more websites than stores for their shopping.  What’s more, Gen Y is a “communal generation” – working closely together through social media to create change and coordinate collective action.

2.  They support many causes

According to the Millennial Impact Report, Gen Y gives to an average of 5 organizations a year.  In other words, this group, having grown up in an age of constant stimulation, multi-tasking, and involvement in more extracurriculars than can fit on a resume, is not content focusing on only one thing.  This group wants to spread their giving.  Why be involved with just one project, when you can support a handful?

3.  They want to see impact

This group is not driven to donate for tax deduction purposes or because “it is expected” of them.  They are most certainly not satisfied with simply writing checks.  Millennials are both achievement and feedback oriented, which means they demand not only frequent reports, but also results from their giving.  In other words, Gen Y is interested in learning about what their contribution has helped to create. Certainly facts such as how many children can go to school or how many water wells can be built from a given contribution are appreciated.  But beyond that, Gen Y wants to keep up-to-date on the project’s themselves: how the children are doing in school, and how the water well is benefitting the community.

The good news is that nonprofits and fundraisers can easily “plug in” to the very channels currently connecting millennials – email, social media, mobile apps – to educate, communicate with and engage Gen Y givers.  And, we can make the giving experience exciting, enjoyable and rewarding for millennials by providing a range of giving options and keeping donors up-to-date on the impact of their donations.

At Bright Funds, we created a charitable giving platform with Gen Y in mind. We believe that when we reach people where they want to be reached, connect them to the causes that they care most about, and show them impact of their investments, we can begin to unleash the full potential of this generation.

Image Credit: Life-Tuner

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