Ready for Next Gen?

Let’s face it, “Next Gen” is now. Generation X and Generation Y/Millennials sit alongside Baby Boomers and those that came before. They’re our co-workers, board members, volunteers and donors. What makes these next generations unique and how should we as nonprofits respond and adapt?

Two recent discussions delved into this question from the donor perspective.

Last week, Center member America’s Charities hosted “#GivingUnderTheInfluence,” exploring the role of digital culture in workplace giving—with a focus on millennials.

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • By 2020 millennials will be 50% of the workplace.
  • Millennials are the first generation to build a media environment around them—they’re tech-savvy knowledge -seekers.
  • Next Gen donors are looking to build one-on-one relationships at the micro level.
  • They’re looking for leadership opportunities and ways to make (and see) an impact.
  • Next Gen’s want to feel good about where they work. Giving them meaningful opportunities to give—beyond dollars—contributes to their engagement with your company.

Read more in the report by America’s Charities.

Today, long-time Center supporter the Meyer Foundation hosted “Next Gen Donors: Report Briefing and Interactive Learning Session,” providing a window into the next generation of philanthropists.

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • Next Gen donors are inheriting more than $40 trillion in wealth.
  • Parents and grandparents are significant influencers on Next Gen donors. Their peers also play a strong role.
  • Traditional giving of time, talent and treasure now includes a fourth “T”—ties—with an emphasis on a donor’s ties/connection with your organization and their own networks.
  • Next Gen donors are seeking personal engagement and want to see the impact of their dollars.
  • Technology—starting with your website—is crucial to connecting with Next Gen donors. So is effective communication by every level of staff member.

Read more in the new report by 21/64 and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

Two words came through loud and clear for me in each conversation: engagement and impact. Neither one is new and, I would imagine, neither is unique to Next Gen donors. Instead, how we communicate to foster engagement and demonstrate impact may be the biggest shift. And for nonprofits, delivering on both effectively across generations will be essential for long-term sustainability.

Some self-assessment for each of us:

  • Can you clearly articulate the impact of your work (without jargon)? Do you have at least one story at the ready that gives a real-world example of how you meet your mission and why it’s important?
  • Do you make meaningful opportunities available for community members to get hands-on with your work—as volunteers or active board members?
  • Does your website tell your story and offer clear channels to engage with your organization?
  • Do you talk to your donors—asking them how they want to hear from you and follow through with those wishes?

If you have some homework from the above (and I would bet we all do), here are a few ways the Center can help you get started: