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Are we ready for a new generation of donors? Nonprofit executives, meet the Millennials. Millennials, meet XYZ nonprofit.

Oops, there is a gap here. Most nonprofit leaders aren’t a part of Generation Y (also known as Millennials). Generation Y is considered to be individuals born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They come after Generation X.

Millennials represent an important emerging group of potential donors as they are also sometimes referred to as “echo boomers”. This refers to their size relative to the large group of Baby Boomers. In the US, birth rates peaked in 1990. It is helpful to know that Millennials have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations as a response to the technological and economic implications of the internet.

Society and technology is evolving faster than many nonprofits can adapt. We have to come to grips with the fact that donor landscapes are not only changing, they are evolving beyond our grasp. We and our leadership team are not dealing with donors we know and recognize. We are in fact talking to strangers.

This means that we all need to spend a lot of time understanding what is important to this evolving group of donors. Why would they want to engage with our mission? How do they make decisions? What is important to them in the donating experience?

Without that level of empathy, we can’t create meaningful experiences for this emerging and important donor. This group is critical to our future employees, advocates and donors. This would be the time to start designing experiences based on the donor’s interest and behavior.

Here is some information that may be helpful in looking at these strangers known as Gen Y:

  • Seventy-three percent have earned and used virtual currency.
  • Gen Y will form about 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 and are already actively shaping corporate culture and expectations. Only 11 percent define having a lot of money as a definition of success.
  • Sixty-six percent will look up a store if they see a friend check in.
  • Start-ups dominate the work force for Gen Y’ers. Only 7 percent work for a Fortune 500 nonprofit. They expect large organizations to hear their voice and recognize their contributions. They need an “intrapreneurial” culture.
  • They are three times as likely to follow a brand over family members in social networks.
  • Millennials watch TV with two or more electronic devices.
  • Millennials trust strangers over friends and family when it comes time for purchase decisions. They value user-generated experiences heavily.
  • Twenty-nine percent find love through Facebook while 33 percent are dumped via TXT or Wall posts. (I’m not making this up)
  • Gen Y’ers believe that other donors care more about their opinions than nonprofits do. That is why they share their opinions online.
  • Most people on Facebook have about 240 friends. Gen Y’ers maintain about 696 friends.

We need to bridge the gap from being strangers to becoming partners.

Generation Numbers

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