Five Ways to Get Into Millennials’ Wallets


By: Sarah Marczynski

It’s the question being asked at strategic planning sessions, conferences, and board retreats around the country: “How do we get millennials into our organization?”  We’re talking about how to get them to walk into the concert hall so that they become accustomed to going to a symphony concert and then in a few years, when they have money, we can ask them for it.

It may surprise some out there that the generation that entered college and the workforce during and post-economic recession and has huge amounts of student loans and other debts is actually in the position to give nearly (insert Dr. Evil pose here) $100 billion dollars to nonprofits by the year 2020.

A December, 2015 post by Angela Rastegar Campbell in the Stanford Social Innovation Review highlighted:

  • [Millennial donors] are willing to be advocates; they share where they give with their friends, spread the word, and (with the help of a little smart technology on the nonprofit’s side) will mobilize new donors to causes they love. From 2012 to 2014, social fundraising grew by 32 percent, and 50 percent of Gen Y donors say they’ve posted about a nonprofit on social media.  Look for an upcoming post from me about how to put “Virtual Volunteers” like this to work.
  • They hold the future of philanthropy. Looking beyond 2020, these donors will inherit more than $30 trillion over the next 30 years; the organizations they fall in love with now are ones they’ll likely support for years to come.

Five Ways to Get Into Millennials Wallets

Campbell suggests five ways for pulling at millennials’ purse strings.

  1. Get out of their in-boxes, and get into their pockets. Direct mail and enewsletters have open rates below 30 percent. Young donors are looking to engage online in creative ways, rather than via emails and mail—62 percent of Gen Y donors say they would give via mobile.
  2. Let them get to know you, not just your beneficiaries. Millennials love thinking about the organization they support as well as the cause.
  3. Share the facts. Younger donors are more than twice as likely as older generations to demand data about impact.
  4. Invest in a great online checkout. Make sure your online donation experience is easy—younger donors are hesitant to mail a check, but love easy online options. Nearly 50 percent of Gen Y report donating online.
  5. Be transparent. Younger donors want honesty.  Share the good and the bad, and donors will trust you and help you grow.

As a millennial, if you take nothing else away from the above list, take away tip number 4 about investing in a great online ticketing and donation system.  One that is responsive to mobile phones, doesn’t have 100 billion steps to complete an order, and has options for sharing on social media whatever just occurred will become the expectation by this generation.

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Sarah Marczynski
Sarah joined the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in 2010 working with the Marketing and Development staffs and quickly became interested in community engagement and education. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration focusing in Nonprofit Arts Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where her capstone and other work under Dr. Christopher Horne examined attendance patterns in high-art cultural institutions and network relationships between local arts agencies and cultural partners. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Vocal Music Education from UTC, where she studied under Dr. Kevin Ford and Ron Ulen. Sarah has been active in the Chattanooga arts community, serving as the founding chair of the Chattanooga Young Artistic Network (CYAN), graduating from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, and working with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, the Choral Arts Society, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Bach Choir. Outside of the arts world, Sarah pretends to be an excellent cook (but she's broken 2 ovens), reads Jane Austen novels, and watches way too much House of Cards.
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