Nessies, Bigfeet, and Large Numbers of Millennial Donors

First, thank you to the Golden Globes for honoring my blog post about correlation not equalling causation featuring Matt Damon as Best Blog Post Comedy.

This week, I’m going into detail on my thought from my NonProfit Pro piece that said

We should regard a nonprofit that courts a Millennial audience at the expense of their core like the person who dyes their hair and takes off their ring to hit on people at a college bar: unfaithful to those who love them, uncomfortable with who they are, and ill-equipped to succeed even if success were desirable.

Let me first say that if your nonprofit wants to be around for the long-term, you will have to address younger people.

Because birth, death, and math.

And as we’ve said that past few days, you shouldn’t not target Millennials.  There really is no such generation and, even if you are looking just at the age group, there are enough intragenerational variations that there will be quality prospects in any age group.

My argument is just you can probably ignore all of the “how to talk to Millennials” think pieces you have seen and will see, and refocus on telling your nonprofit’s story well to individuals who will react well to it.

The maxim that we should be following is his:


That’s Willie Sutton and he allegedly said, when asked why he robbed banks, that it’s where the money is.

The height of Millennial absurdity, expressed to me by an otherwise sensical colleague, was the argument that we needed a Millennial-focused planned giving strategy.

So where is the money?  Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving says it’s:

  • 43% Baby Boomers
  • 26% Maturers (or Civics)
  • 20% Gen X
  • 10% Gen Y

As Blackbaud summarizes “In short, the odds are strong that for the vast majority of causes, your next donor will be over age 50.”

And that donor will be more profitable.  The average gift from a Boomer or a Mature is$454 and $478 respectively.  For Gen Y, it’s $272.

I know, I talked big against Blackbaud sometimes, but they really do good reports.  This one is here and I’m sorry you will have to give them your email to get it, but it’s worth it.

So, in summary:

  • Millennials often don’t have the unique attributes often attributed to them.
  • In fact, the whole generation system is pretty flawed.
  • They are not one coherent group available for targeting; in fact, other attributes like race and gender are far more predictive.
  • Even if they were available for targeting, they aren’t worth targeting for donations right now.

And here I said this was going to be a more nuanced look.

However, we did see that there were some things that are changing over time.  While these are commonly attributed to Millennials, they are likely trends that will change the way we do direct marketing over the long term.  That’s what I’ll take on tomorrow.


Nessies, Bigfeet, and Large Numbers of Millennial Donors

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