Young people don’t give?

The charity headline this week is the worrying trend that younger people give less and less.

In short over-60s are now more than twice as likely to give to charity as the under-30s.

The take out is young people don’t give. But I think the message is charities don’t engage ‘young people’ in the right way (‘young’ in parentheses because the group that aren’t giving are the post baby boomer generation – and that includes me!). It’s clear we have grown up with a different mindset than the generation born between the wars or even the baby boomer generation. And as a general rule few charities have adjusted to engage ‘younger people’.

Sharing is in

Generation X (post baby boomers) want to be involved. They don’t just want to give a cheque.

Generation Y (post Generation X) apparently have a tendency to ask “Whats in it for me?“. In fact some expert labelled Generation Y as Generation Me! That says we need to give them a great experience when it comes to being ‘charitable’ (which may be the wrong word). Charities need to provide something that they enjoy, get a buzz out of (will do it again) and above all want to share. Sharing is in.

And when it comes to young people, especially Generation Y, who are their biggest influences? Their peers of course.

That has profound implications – possibly more so in the UK. How do we take a culture of giving, which tends to be private and one you keep to yourself, to one that people openly share. It means investing in an amazing supporter experience that is so good people want to shout about it. So they become passionate advocates. That’s what non-profits like Charity: Water seem to have achieved. It’s a totally different style of marketing about involving and engaging your audience not broadcasting to them to extract as much as you can.

Engage young people – and the money will come

So how can we engage young people? The Hult Global Case Challenge is about to kick off shortly – thousands of super sharp intelligent young people, from all over the world in their 20’s, will be  working late into the night to come up with solutions to the social problems put before them. What an opportunity causes have – to offer up some of the worlds biggest social issues. And what a chance to impress the minds of future change makers and business leaders.

So here is my list of recommendations:

1. Think what can you offer that gives people a sense of purpose (many are looking for just that) and is something they would want to tell others. It might be your problems as much as your solutions. How can you enable people to be part of the experience?

2. Engage young people with something different that just donating. Check out Sunfunder – the new crowd funding platform developed by a team of young people in the US in which you get your money back whilst helping communities access solar power.

3. Partner with crowd funding sites that helps you reach other audiences, and enables young people to spread ground breaking ideas through their own networks such as SponsorCraft the crowd funding platform for students at universities and schools. Or engage online communities that simply want to do good such as

4. Offer a way of giving that suits young people such as Givey which allows you to donate (and share) via Twitter.

And the answer isn’t just digital (although that’s clearly a key way of sharing). The incredible level of interest generated in the Koni campaign by Invisible Children began from face to face talks on student campuses that created an audience.

So 5. Get face to face too.

So let’s not do more of what we’ve always done (the list of recommendations coming out of the Charities Aid Foundation didn’t do it for me) – because we will just get the same trend of declining interest amongst a generation. That will require a bit of bravery when all the statistics point in the opposite direction.

What would your recommendation be?

6 thoughts on “Young people don’t give?

  1. Love this post. I sometimes worry about sounding like a broken record, But…

    One of the big problems for me is that while there has been a lot of talk about engaging different/new audiences little progress has been made. I’ve sat in countless meetings over the last few years to hear agencies & charities talk about irrelevant or insignificant (in terms of volume) audiences that they think they should pursue. With little success. I think charities need to make giving more accessible and more fun. Charities need to be offering more in return for donations. Fundraising of the not too distant past was very passive, we write to people, they give, we write again. Very little was expected or offered in return. Over time the pot gets smaller. Are we really surprised that we are struggling to recruit and retain younger donors?

    We need to be where future donors are, not at the expense of our traditional audiences of course, but we need to be working to enthuse younger donors. Lots of charities use face to face fundraising, but don’t want to recruit or pay for younger donors because they lapse at the highest rates. Which is just crazy as far as I can see. Surely we want to recruit these people, but change their experience of supporting us so that they don’t lapse?

    We need to invest in payment mechanisms and methods of communications that can cut through with young donors. I mean lets be honest, Direct Debits are hardly the most interesting way of supporting a charity. At the risk of sounding like a mobile bore, part of the solution really is the mobile phone.


    • Thanks Paul. I wonder if the drop off by young people after signing up through face to face is because often the experience that follows just doesn’t deliver (you get placed in the stream of donor communications), and yet they were clearly engaged through a conversation on the street?


  2. Pingback: Confessions of a fundraiser | ifundraiser

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