Originally published on “Matters” by Designit
Millennials have been the focus of everybody’s attention for a while. In America alone, there are 75 million young people — making them the largest living generation. As more millennials enter the workforce, businesses have adapted their products and services to millennials’ needs and preferences. The same goes for charities, it’s also urgent to adapt as well. The enthusiasm and money of young people is needed to continue making impacts.
In 2017, I was lucky enough to work with a team of talented designers, pro bono, for The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project is an NGO that helps local communities conduct community projects in education, women’s empowerment, micro finance, health, and more.
We were tasked to rethink how the organization can engage the younger demographic digitally, in ways that resonate. As we thought about a digital strategy, we looked at the journey of giving and considered the ways in which this generation is different. Five insights came up during our research:
Be transparent with how funds support cause in order to gain trust.
Millennials are famously anti-establishment, and have little faith in our institutions and infrastructure. “We are living in an era of backlash against authority,” says an organization that measures trust in business, media, government, and NGOs in an annual survey. In 2017, for the first time since they started surveying this generation, trust declined steeply. This puts the potential donators in a dilemma: They may want to help a cause but are concerned that their donations might not be used in a way that they wanted.
“I’m not sure if I trust big NPOs. What if my money goes towards their operational cost? I want my money to go to the cause.” — 27-year-old millennial, research respondent.
And they don’t have to wonder. They can simply go to the watchdog organization Charity Navigator and look up charity’s financials and score (out of 100) to make a more informed decision about who to donate to. The site lists operating costs, the percentage of expenses spent on program expenses versus administrative and fundraising expenses, how much the CEO makes, and the annual revenue. So if organizations don’t find a way to establish transparency and trust with outreach, people will take their money elsewhere. It’s useful to look at how popular projects on crowdsourced funding platforms have extremely detailed promises of how funds will be used. The better able you are to communicate your goals, and how you intend to meet them, the better off you’ll be.
Why does that community need a school? How much does it cost to build it? How many teachers do they need to hire? What supplies are being bought? You build trust when you’re up front about how funds are supporting social projects. This is especially critical if you can’t meet potential donors in person to establish that trust.
Give people a chance to give more than money.
Because they might not have the money. The millennial generation is worse off financially than their Baby Boomer parents.
“I made sure that I would be okay without the money before I made the donation.” — 20-year-old millennial, research respondent.
The good news is that millennials place value on experiences. Money isn’t the only thing they evaluate when they are on the receiving side, so neither do they think only about money when it comes to giving. This generation believes that their time and expertise are valuable, and they consider it part of the giving cycle.
Most traditional NGOs are set up to receive donations, but adding participatory giving to the way an organization functions can go a long way. More than three quarters (77 percent) of millennials surveyed at the Millennial Impact Report indicated that they’d be more likely to volunteer if they could use a specific skill or expertise to benefit a cause. That means millennials can contribute skills that NGOs would otherwise have to pay for. It benefits them because they contribute directly to the success of an organization — something money can’t buy.
Don’t forget that millennials are excellent fundraisers. In fundraising marathons, for example, participants have to raise a certain amount of money in order to run. And it works. Runners raised $34.2 Million for the Boston Marathon in 2017. What people donated was their time, effort, and social network. Those runners were incentivized because they cared about a cause and enjoyed the experience, and friends in their social network contributed money because they cared about them.
By allowing donators to contribute more than money, it gives people a way to connect with what the organization is doing without committing cash they may not have. It also builds trust, which is critical to encouraging philanthropy later on. Either way, the organization benefits.
Communicate with positivity.
With 24/7 news coverage and social media sharing, we are constantly bombarded with news. Much of that news is negative. Maybe that’s why whenever sometime takes real action to try to fix a problematic issue, people fall over one other to support it. That was the case a few years ago, when a 20-year-old man pitched a positive solution to clean ocean plastic to the world. It went viral on social media and received over 2 million USD from over 38,000 funders in 100 days. Millennials can be extremely motivated when it comes to taking part in something inspiring. They don’t need more bad news.
On top of that, good news is more likely to be shared on social media. “There’s certainly negative emotions we share; when we’re angry or when we’re anxious, that does encourage us to pass things on. But on average, we share more positive stuff than negative stuff,” says Jonah Berger, author of the book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On.
Embed small giving actions into everyday life.
It will be easier to engage new donors by making the entry barrier low. According to the Millennial Impact Report, “Nearly 40 percent of [millennial] respondents gave amounts between $1-$50, and another 23 percent gave at $51-$100 levels.”
Another benefit of embedding smaller amount of donations into everyday life, is that the donation repeats. Donators don’t have to go through the process of being interested and engaged into a cause again.
“It’s like paying for Netflix. One month is about $10 USD, but if you think about it, that’s $120 USD a year.” — 27-year-old millennial, research respondent.
When you collect small amounts of money multiple times, the sum really adds up. The alarm app icukoo is fun example of how giving can be embedded into everyday life. For every minute snoozed, the app donates £1 to your charity of choice. (Thank goodness there’s a cap of 30 pounds a month.) You can also raise money as you work out, with Charity Miles, an app that tracks the distance you walk, bike, or run, and donates accordingly. The money come from their corporate sponsors, who benefit by meeting their marketing goals. Google’s One Today asks you to set up daily alerts to donate $1 (they cover the transaction fees) to the charity of your choice.
Instead of defaulting to the standard $25, $50, $75, and up, charities can potentially achieve a lot with smaller but repeated donations. One fast way to achieve that could be partnering up with third parties which can help embed donating into people’s life style.
Create a 360-degree digital fundraising strategy.
Digital fundraising is much more than the moment when donors input credit card information on a webpage. The digital giving experience for a potential donor starts from becoming interested in a cause, engaging in a giving action, to receiving feedback, then hopefully, giving again. In order to attract and retain donors, it is crucial that organizations take the whole giving journey into consideration.
For The Hunger Project, our design team ended up delivering a roadmap to kickstart their digital fundraising strategy. We began with a brand refresh to help communicate their causes more incisively. Next steps include setting up official digital channels, designing materials for donation follow-ups, and forging partnerships with businesses.
I believe that a well thought out fundraising strategy will only compliment what NGOs are trying to achieve. Not only NGOs can receive more donations, they can achieve more trust and support at the same time. By merely adjusting they way of how funds from millennials can be secured, we hope that The Hunger Project will attract more support from people who believe in their causes, and continue to empower local communities globally.