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Millennial donors

Millennial donors (Photo by Karen Tremblay)


I’m pleased to welcome Christina Attard again today as a guest blogger! She’s going to tell you about how to get Millennials to give planned gifts. You may have seen Ms. Attard’s previous post, “Secrets about planned giving that only your donors know.” and “Are you ready to lead a nonprofit?

Much digital ink has been spilled in the past year or two on the future of giving as Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1991 and sometimes known as “Generation Y,” begin to play a bigger role in society. Where do gift planning strategies fit into the fundraising approach with this up and coming generation?

I’d like to make the case that though this group is not going to provide the mainstay of today’s legacy gift intentions they should not be ignored. Speaking from my own experiences as a Millennial bequest donor, organizations that rethink how they include younger donors in gift planning today will have a leg-up for the future.

Veteran fundraiser Ken Ramsay recently argued that it is worth asking everyone who has been engaged with your organization in some way for a planned gift. His experience showed that asking for a legacy gift fundamentally enhances the organization’s relationships and giving patterns for current donors. If the planned giving ask is indeed for everyone, why not also for Millennials connected to your work?

What does an informed and appropriate planned giving ask look like for Millennials?

Last spring, I attended the Millennial Donor Summit 2011 (a.k.a. #mds11) – a live, online conference based in the US about generational-focused fundraising. Plenary sessions focused on building trust, engaging Millennials to volunteer and join boards and providing accountability and transparency. I realized that this didn’t really present any revolutionary shift from how we solicit older donors. In essence, the exact same principles of donor-centred, relationship-based fundraising are still in play.

Do Millennials give money to charity?

The 2010 Next Generation of Canadian Giving report claims that roughly 55% or 2.7 million Canadians born in the 1980s are giving annually with an average annual contribution of $325. This does not make this group the most powerful force in national philanthropy. However, the numbers need to be understood in a different context from the participation rates among older donors.

Millennials who are donating to charity are still establishing their families and asset-bases for the first time, in contrast to their more-established Boomer and Civic peers. But it is population size that is the bigger factor in terms of overall sector influence. Boomers participate in giving at a 66% rate, which is not staggeringly higher than Millennials, but the effect on the market is amplified by the fact that there are an estimated 8.7 million Boomers in Canada and only five million Millennials.

Planned giving fundraising is the perfect strategy to create serious impact for those who can’t afford a major gift today. Good Works Co.’s excellent 2010 Legacy Poll backs this idea up by noting that income is not the greatest indicator. Just being asked for a gift was a major positive factor.

Common gift planning knowledge also demonstrates that major life changes are often good times to speak to individuals about legacy gifts. Think about those new houses and families that all require the protection of wills and insurance policies? Traditional bequest donors often have a history of volunteerism and Millennials are the ultimate volunteers – the Ontario public education system even incorporates volunteer hours into the requirements for a high school diploma!

Similarities and differences

If we can accept that the “iPod” generation does indeed have some commonalities with older generations when it comes to planned giving, how do we understand the key differences? As I was reflecting on this question, I thought about Pepsi. The tag-line for Pepsi in 1939-1950 was “Twice as much for a nickel.” Think for a moment about traditional planned giving marketing for that generation. It’s been based on tax-savings and the idea that directing your social capital to charity is one way to get “more bang for your buck” than the tax-man could offer. The planned giving material I grew up with as a fundraiser often focused on charts detailing the intricacies of “how to give.”

“Change the game.”

This describes the Millennial generation when it comes to their interest in philanthropy. For them, giving and volunteering are about being at the centre of the action and re-writing history. I would say that in choosing who to approach in the Millennial generation, the rules are much the same, but that the case for support when speaking about a planned gift has to be entirely new. Millennials need to understand impact and their specific roles as key players in outcomes – use planned giving as an option to help them think long-term about the importance of their involvement.

What can we expect in this new game of planned giving in Canada? From a technical standpoint, these planned gifts will generally leave donors and not charities in control. Also, the life stage of Millennial donors makes it impossible for them to give those coveted irrevocable deferred gifts. Organizations will have to consider if they are serious about keeping revocable deferred gifts on their books and managing such a long-term relationship. Think about the risks of counting these gifts along with current gifts in capital campaigns and consider what rewards might come from sharing that lead philanthropist feeling with this generation by including their commitments for the future in reaching the goal?

Organizations will have to consider if they are serious about keeping revocable deferred gifts on their books and managing such a long-term relationship. How will Millennial donors feel about your track-record in 2040 when their relationship manager has changed 3, 6, 10 times by then? Here’s where small but meaningful touches can make a difference – hand-sign those Annual Appeal thank you letters!

This is an ambitious, team-playing, social generation. In the online arena we’ve already seen that Millennials are willing to get behind a brand, make it their own and create a tribe of others to join them. Those who value your investment in treating them as an important supporter despite the dollar-figure of their current giving will amplify your message.

This is a generation for whom the concept of “privacy” is radically different and I read in my “crystal-ball” that once we begin to engage a small number of Millennials in the planned giving conversation, their personal support for the concept and the work that we do will not remain a secret for long.

Because today’s generation of young Canadians is so much smaller than the Boomer generation, their individual charitable contributions will have to be greater and their relationships with charity will have to happen at a younger age than it did for earlier groups if the third-sector in Canada expects to survive. The future needs our best-efforts now.

Christina Attard

Christina Attard

Christina Attard writes at the Ask Better, Give Smarter blog. Ms. Attard is passionate about helping nonprofits understand planned giving. She is the Development Director of the Archdiocese of Regina, Canada. Follow her on Twitter @GPTekkie.