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Show & Tell: Generation Y Donors

By Alison Hoffer on June 9, 20103 Comments
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Generation Y is armed with over 70 million members, who are quickly defying the norms of the philanthropy world. A generation that has been defined as selfish, pampered and constantly connected to their p.e.ds is now a top priority of development professionals.  This generation is changing the landscape of charitable giving with their demands and needs, or just simply how they want to be treated as donors.

Although Generation Y has members as young as fifteen years old, countless organizations have been tracking and measuring this generation’s movement in charitable giving. It is as if “generation me,” a term commonly used to refer to Generation Y, has once again found a way to have the spotlight shine on them. Development professionals need to know how to steward Generation Y to ensure their nonprofit’s future success and grasp that this will create a ripple effect of how future generations will want to be engaged.

The report entitled “Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults,” a report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project part of the Pew Research Center’s series entitled “The Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next,”  found that “two-thirds of teen internet users 63% are online every day  while 36% of teens go online several times a day.” [i] This reflects that Generation Y needs to be engaged often online and their attention has to be held before another cause captures their activism and their monetary support. From emailing them ways to volunteer, to communicating with them about how a personal donation can go directly to assist a cause, Generation Y is online and expects nonprofits to court them through social networking, website interactions and emails.

According to the Pew Research Center’s report “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next,” “three quarters of Millennials have created a personal profile on a social networking website.”[ii] If a Generation Yer learns about a specific cause, that member can quickly share his/her experience through posting pictures, web links and stories on social networking sites such as Facebook.  Nonprofits need to produce content that is easy to access and share; nonprofits must recognize Generation Y as virtual ambassadors for their cause: put your trust in them.  The content nonprofits put out on the web will be rehashed and retold by Generation Y.  This information must genuinely reflect what the nonprofit stands for.

Generation Y is independent in terms of connecting to the Internet.  Members still rely on peer to peer communication as can been seen by the overwhelming popularity appeal of social media sites to this generation. A successful nonprofit taking note of this is Alex’s Lemonade Stand,  recently launched the Tell-A-Friend initiative. Alex’s Lemonade Stand has leveraged peer to peer communication by emailing donors stories of how people spread the word about the nonprofit, and posting these personal experiences on the website.  Generation Y wants to know what their friends are donating to and the personal connection involved.

It all comes back to what we learned in school during “Show and Tell.” Each nonprofit is trying to win the audience over with the best show of its cause and to gain the biggest applause, in reality, donations.  It is imperative for nonprofits to be able to present their cause efficiently and speak directly to Generation Y.  This generation wants to know why a nonprofit wants their financial support and time; this can be done through showcasing a nonprofit’s message and producing quality content frequently online.  Generation Yers share this information with their peer audience members, boosting support of the nonprofit presenting.  This generation wants to have the ability to ask questions and learn more about the nonprofit because personal connection matters to them.   Generation Y looks to have a direct connection to the nonprofit and to talk about their relationship with the organization to other members of the Generation Y audience.

Generation Y may be labeled many things but it is a generation that knows what it wants and if development staff don’t play by this generation’s rules, they will lose a resource. Nonprofits need to engage this Generation Y, to give them their best “show and tell” before another nonprofit comes along and grabs their attention.


[i] Lenhart, Amanda, Purcell, Kristen, Smith, Aaron, Zickuhr, Kathryn. Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults. Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 3, 2010, http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social -Media -and -Young -Adults.aspx, accessed on June 1, 2010.

[ii] Taylor, Paul, Keeter, Scott. Millenials: A Portrait of Generation Next: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. Pew Research Center, February 24, 2010. www.pewresearch.org/millennials. www.pewresearch.org/millennials. accessed on June 1, 2010.

Alison Hoffer is a development professional with a Masters in Nonprofit Management from Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy. She can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/in/AlisonHoffer.

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3 Comments »

  • Gail H. says:

    Ms. Hoffer provides excellent insight into the giving potential of a largely untapped resource. Great article!

  • Shira N. says:

    Brilliant article!

  • Adam L says:

    There are many great resources that are beginning to utilize this untapped communication method. The one that comes to mind is givezooks.com. It’s an online platform that molds social media sites with non-profit organizations fund raising efforts.

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