#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week two | give to get

It’s time for the second installment of #whatgiveswednesday. I can’t wait to showcase some of the excellent guest bloggers I’m getting lined up, but for now I’ll continue the conversation. We’ve painted a picture, now I want to talk about the “give to get” concept.

We’re likely to use young constituents and “millennials” interchangeably throughout this year-long adventure. Millennials, also called Generation Y, are primarily people born in the 1980s or 1990s. At this moment in time, these people are who make up our young constituent group.

Millennials – of which I am a part – are often categorized as lazy and entitled. In fundraising, this is reflected in the assumption that millennials give to get. In other words, their philanthropy is motivated by their desire to receive something in return.

What do you think??? Is this true? If it is true, is it a bad thing? Is it the way of the future?

I’ve certainly seen this at work. The popularity of crowdfunding relies somewhat on this concept; in return for being a “backer”, some kind of perk is received. Many organizations implement young donor or young patron groups or circles; in return for a donation, the donor gets a membership into some kind of exclusive club, where they may get additional perks. (I’m hoping one of our guest bloggers will talk about membership more later.)

But perhaps there’s another way to look at it. Perhaps it’s not just about perks or memberships. Maybe young donors are more critical, less willing to respond to your ask at face value. Sure, maybe they’d prefer that something’s in it for them, but maybe they just want assurance that something’s in it. Full stop.

We know from a marketing standpoint that feeding consumers lies just doesn’t work anymore. Back in the day, perhaps, advertisers could say what they wanted and people would believe it. Now we’re bombarded with messages all day long from multiple channels, and we’re becoming savvy enough to not believe anything until someone we trust endorses it.

So maybe it’s not that millennials’ philanthropic intentions are less than pure. Maybe we just need to work harder for them.

What do you think???


Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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3 thoughts on “#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week two | give to get

  1. Thank you for this reflective and honest post, Maeve.

    I have been fighting with myself for the past 2.5 years, insisting that I am not a Millennial because I was born at the start of the 80’s, and thus, surely must have missed this category. Mainly, I fight because I’m tired of hearing about the awful characteristics that everyone seems to harp on with Millennials.

    But I’m over it. I’m embracing it. I am a Millennial. Sometimes I’m indeed awful, and sometimes I’m awesome.

    When it comes to giving, indeed, I would say I give to get (although I wouldn’t put it so bluntly). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily want something tangible because I’m quite over consumerism and products. (Admittedly, however, I can’t live without my iPhone…don’t judge me, please).

    So what is it that I want when I give? I want…
    …my gift to be matched because I don’t have much to give.
    …connectivity with real people within the organization; not endless letters throughout the year.
    …added connections to my professional network.
    …a signature signed in real, pen ink on the bottom of my thank you letter.
    …invitations to participate in the work of the charity or volunteer.
    …the letter from my sponsored child.
    …the ability to voice praise or concern when appropriate with an organization/charity.
    …to hear good reports from an organization’s employees, whether past or present, when they speak of a charity.

    Is all of that awful after all?

  2. Loved this post, Maeve! It reminded me of a recent conversation I had when someone criticized “unselfies” on GivingTuesday saying that it’s unfortunate that we want to capture our philanthropic moments on camera, and that it takes away from what should be a selfless, non self-promoting act. But the reality is, “selfies” are a thing. They’re viral and us millennials like to take pictures of ourselves. Just because it’s different than the way giving has occurred historically doesn’t mean it’s shameful or horrendous of us, does it? In the end, we’re still giving. Who cares how or what our motivation is, it’s the act of giving that matters. In fact, we’re only letting more people know about it and encouraging peer giving by putting it out there and nominating others, just like your wilfie nomination to me on GivingTuesday!

  3. Thank you, Amber & Brittney, for your thoughtful and reflective comments on this post. (Sorry for the delay in responding… I’ve had these comments flagged in my inbox for a while, but now that I’m on staycation I’m not letting them be ignored!)

    I love when comments/further discussion inspire new posts, because that’s what’s happening in my noggin right now. I think what all this comes down to is a resistance to change. We like the old idea of a culture of philanthropy… a born & bred habit of giving. We like the idea that it’s not about ego; it’s more altruistic that way.

    I think sometimes social media get confused with ego. A status update and a selfie aren’t in and of themselves egotistical. It’s about sharing! So if you share a post about having made a donation to an organization, is that egotistical? What if it means more of your network is familiar with the organization? What if it means some of your friends also donate to the organization?

    Are we selfish? Does wanting accountability or personalization when we donate mean we’re greedy? Does wanting to be involved in an organization we give to mean we’re motivated by something less good than those who give anonymously with no expectations?

    There’s a resistance to change in pegging millennials as greedy, selfish, egotistical, etc. Maybe part of the mission of #whatgiveswednesday will be to change perceptions around young donors. Thank you both for helping me crack this mystery. It’s a group effort!

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