What does “charity” mean to you? Is it the act of giving financially to a cause that you believe in? Is it occasionally volunteering some of your time to help out in a charity shop, shelter or soup kitchen? Or does it mean something else, something more varied, something you can get involved in, in a way that works for you?
If you were born after 1980, there’s a good chance it’s the latter because, like many Millennials, you possibly believe that there’s a lot more to charity than simply reaching into your wallet and giving financial aid. You and the other people who fall into the group born between 1980 and 2000, are redefining the way charity operates, and in many ways, it’s for the better.
For those of us born before 1980, it’s a different world to the one we grew up in. Of course, there were plenty of ways to get involved with charities that didn’t simply entail shelling ot a few pounds several times a year, but for the most part, people in their late thirties, early forties and older tend towards a more traditional model of charitability. For Millennials, especially the younger Millennials, it’s a different story entirely.
Recently, the Global NGO Online Technology Report published their findings. One of the most important things they picked up during their survey was that just under half of the Millennial respondents said they support causes through social media sharing. Of course, some have denounced this, calling it slacktivism, but the simple fact is that this social sharing is actively raising awareness of causes and encouraging people to donate their time and money to these causes.
According to the co-founder and CEO of CARE for AIDS, Millennials get involved in charitable causes in a few different ways to financial giving. Top among these new ways of charitability are socially responsible consumption, social media advocacy as mentioned above, saving, and volunteering.
The survey also revealed that this group gravitates towards causes that speak to their sense of community and personal duty - in other words, if a cause is designed to make the world around us a better place - and focuses on letting people know that - it is more likely to appeal to the Millennial donor. No insincere, fake messages for this group - they are motivated by authenticity, relatability and an emotional connection to their wider community.
But despite this tendency to share causes on social media, Millennials aren’t convinced that digital methods themselves have all that much power to effect change. Rather, that power is in the hands of each individual, as well as the hands of government and non-profit organisations.
So what causes are important to Millennials?
When it comes to people-focused causes, the most important cause is civil rights and fighting discrimination, with 29% of respondents saying it’s the most important, according to a survey titled “The Millennial Impact Report”, conducted by Achieve. The survey goes on to state that health care and job creation come a close, matched second, with 26% of respondents feeling these are the most important.
It is interesting to note how this has shifted in just the last year, however. Before the 2016 United States Presidential election, education and employment were the top concerns of Millennials in that country.
Perhaps the most important finding of the Achieve survey was that Millennials respond strongly to three factors - times of crisis, which compel them to give; personalisation, which appeals to them directly in a way that addresses them; and peer-to-peer giving, in which they make donations to individuals who need help, rather than to formal organisations.
Effectively, this means that charities need to reconsider the way they speak to this generation, rather than relying on old-fashioned appeals to do their work for them.
- To address the tendency to give during times of crisis, charities need to look more closely at strategies and systematic donations, to shift away from the crisis mentality - this creates a more stable and reliable source of funding.
- Regarding personalisation, is it about using different channels and creating more unique appeals. For example, through Purposity, you can buy individual items to support a local family in need, through New Story, you can help build a home for a family in Haiti, and through Compassion, sponsor a child in Kenya.
- Peer-to-peer donation present an interesting challenge, as these are usually presented by the individual in need. However, charities can leverage that by creating appeals for individuals, for local needs, or for targeted projects through the various peer-to-peer portals.
By appealing to the things that interest Millennials, some charities are tapping into this market. For example, top players of the game “Destiny” have raised close to $350 000 on behalf of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, simply by playing the game live online, encouraging viewers to donate while watching the game unfold.
First Descents, on the other hand, has appealed to Millennials through a two-minute video that introduces the organisation’s purpose, founder, ethos and programmes, using video visuals to great effect. Video is rapidly proving to be one of the most effective ways charities can engage with this market and to build not only awareness of their cause, but attract new donors, too.
By tapping into the Millennial market, charities can ensure continued growth and success in their efforts - it’s simply a matter of meeting this market where they live and engage.