Many people think of Millennials as self-centered, selfie-snapping, uber-texting, uber-riding, narcissists. Even some Millennials share this opinion. Johnny Oleksinski, a Millennial himself, wrote in the New York Post:

This is my number one rule: Do whatever millennials don’t. Definite no-nos include quitting a job or relationship the moment my mood drops from ecstatic to merely content; expecting the world to kowtow to my every childish whim; and assuming that I am always the most fascinating person in the room, hell, the zip code.

He sounds like he’s loads of fun to be around.

But is this true? Are Millennials really the most selfish generation of all time? Are Millennials only obsessed with the Kardashians and Snapchat?

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Millennials care more about others than you might think. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report reported that 84 percent of Millennials made a charitable contribution in 2015.

The truth is, Millennials do care about things other than themselves, and they are willing to contribute to worthy causes. In fact, they are changing the very face of nonprofit giving.

If you want Millennials to donate to your cause, you need to know what motivates them, how they give, and what types of causes they prefer. Once you know these things, you can tap into their substantial incomes.

Here are 6 ways that Millennials are changing the face of charitable giving.

#1 – Millennials Are Always Digitally Connected

Millennials constantly live in two worlds: the physical and the digital. In fact, it could be said that they spend even more time in the digital world than in the physical, given the prevalence of smartphones and tablets and laptops.

The days of direct mail campaigns are quickly dying. Do you really think a Millennial is going to write out a check, put it in an envelope, and then send it back through the mail? Most of them don’t even own stamps.

The data shows this as well. In 2015, charitable giving rose by 1.6 percent but online giving rose by 9.2 percent. This surge can almost certainly be attributed to the increase in Millennials donating.

This means that nonprofits need to be moving their fundraising efforts into the digital world. If your organization isn’t utilizing your website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, you’re missing out on ways to connect with Millennials.

Millennials expect things to move quickly. If they can’t donate via text message or a website, don’t expect them to donate at all.

#2 – Millennials Are Always Sharing Information With Others

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Social media has turned the world into a sharing culture. Millennials share everything online, from relationship status to breakfast photos to silly memes to inspiring videos. Social media represents who they are. What they share is directly tied to their personality and identity.

This holds true with charitable efforts as well. If Millennials care about something, they want to share it with others. We saw this clearly in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that dominated social media several years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people poured ice water over themselves in solidarity with those who were afflicted by ALS. Many more donated to the cause.

The lesson is clear: if you want to raise funds, you absolutely must utilize social media. Provide people with photos and videos to share. Create hashtags surrounding your cause. Make every facet of your website shareable.

Millennials love social media and you would be wise to tap into it.

#3 – Millennials Care About Results More Than Institutions

It used to be that an institution could raise money on the basis of its reputation. The United Way could raise millions simply because it was the United Way.

But Millennials care far more about results than names or institutions. They want to see what they’re giving to. They want to feel inspired by the cause.

As Bradley Depew wrote on The Balance:

When Millennials check a nonprofit’s website, they look for information about what the organization does and how donations are used.

They are less interested in the people or the ideas behind a nonprofit than they are in the results the nonprofit produces. Nonprofit “self-talk” doesn’t impress Millennials unless it is backed up with tangible results.

For better or worse, Millennials want to see the cause. They want results, not vague causes. Don’t rely on your reputation or name. Keep this in mind when designing all your marketing materials.

#4 – Millennials Resonate With Stories

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In addition to tangible results, Millennials deeply resonate with stories. “Authenticity” matters deeply to them when it comes to charitable giving. They want to know the stories of those they’re helping. They want a personal connection with the cause. They want to be able to relate their own story to the cause they’re supporting.

Organizations like Pencils of Promise tap into the power of stories with high quality videos like this:

As a nonprofit raising funds, it’s essential for you to work stories into your efforts. Your stories should convey why your cause matters in a way that is both emotional and informational.

#5 – Millennials Monitor Social Media For Causes

Many Millennials discover charitable causes through social media. As Complex noted:

It might seem like Generation Y hasn’t been as involved in social issues. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Generation Y’s social presence doesn’t begin with marches—it begins with 140 characters.

For example, WATERisLIFE hijacked the common hashtag #FirstWorldProblems to produce this powerful campaign:

Make-A-Wish made one little boy’s dream come true using the hashtag #SFBatkid. For one day, he got to be Batman, fighting villains and rescuing the city. Thousands of San Francisco residents found out about the event through social media and gathered to cheer him on.

The point is this: Millennials don’t just share charitable causes on social media, they also discover them.

When raising funds, consider how you can center things around an element of social media. Create a hashtag, a shareable video, a place where everyone can upload photos. This will give Millennials a sense of community and make them more likely to donate.

#6 – Millennials Value Transparency

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Few things matter more to Millennials than transparency. The internet has made it incredibly easy for scam artists to bilk people out of their money. The Atlantic wrote the following about the Cancer Fund of America and it’s related charities:

In fact, the government says, the four organizations stole $187 million between 2008 and 2012 in donations, which they diverted into “lucrative employment for family members and friends, and spent consumer donations on cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting event and concert tickets, and dating site memberships.”

It’s this kind of things that makes Millennials highly suspicious of people who ask for their money. They want transparency. They want to know where their dollars are going and how they’re being used.

This ties in closely with authenticity and results. Millennials want to see the results of their giving. They won’t trust an organization simply because they say the right things or sound like a solid institution. They want transparency.

If you want to tap into Millennial giving, you need to consider being highly transparent. Reveal how the money is being used, how funds are being allocated, and how problems are being solved. Don’t just promise people that everything is okay. Show them that everything is okay.


Contrary to the opinion of the man who wrote in the New York Post, Millennials are NOT the worst generation ever. Are they a bit narcissistic at times? Sure. Are they a little bit obsessed with likes and shares and retweets? Sure.

But this doesn’t mean they’re stingy or not generous. In fact, the data shows that Millennials are just as, if not more generous than previous generations.

But it’s crucial to understand that Millennials are NOT like previous generations when it comes to how they give. Their means and methods are significantly different.

If you want to succeed in raising funds, it’s crucial that you incorporate the lessons above. If not, the Millennials will keep their wallets closed.

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