Author: Charlotte Francis


We need to get more young donors…This was the subject of the debate at the FIA 2016 SA Fundraising Showcase in Adelaide last week.  I was on the affirmative side with Martin Paul from More Strategic. On the negative side were Tracy McNamara, CEO for the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), and Andrew Sabatino, FIA’s Young (note the contradiction already!) Fundraiser of the Year in 2016 and Co-Founder and Director of Donor Republic.

Keen to get into the spirit of all things millennial Martin and I channelled our inner Gen Y’s with me as Melanie Millennial and Martin as Harvey Hipster. Melanie, who, amazingly, was very articulate, only used a few TLAs (three-letter acronyms), LOL!


Harvey and Melanie started from the premise that all the research shows that more than half of all donations to charity are from the over 60s, the Boomers, so why would we not engage in some succession planning? As Pareto’s Sean Triner – who incidentally was adjudicating the debate – had told us in an earlier session, the average age of a Direct Mail respondent is 73. 

Harvey pointed out that the two most significant areas of fundraising growth in the last 15 years have been Face to Face and Peer to Peer where the average age is 43 and 41 respectively, putting them in the Gen X bracket. That’s a lot younger than 73!  But what about the Millennials? Melanie drew on some the findings of the US Millennial Impact Project, the most comprehensive study into the giving patterns and trends of the Millennials from 2009 onwards.  For example:

       93% per cent of millennials had given to charities in the last 12 months (2012)

       61 per cent had given to three organisations or more. (2011)

For more insights in to the giving patterns and trends of the Millennials check out The Millenial Impact reports). Based on these findings, you wouldn’t want to ignore the Gen Ys, a group whose population will peak at 81.1 million in 2036 (in the US), whilst the poor old Boomers dwindle to 16.6 million.

All indications are that once Gen Ys get engaged with a cause they really get behind it and want to see the impact of their involvement.  They see themselves as change-makers, able to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems. And, of course they are the do-good digerati, constantly connected to social media, which is good news for peer to peer fundraising initiatives.

Tracey McNamara argued that the Gen Ys are Kardashian-following, gimmick-driven ‘slacktivists’ who are good at sharing information but not donating as they have no wealth. Citing Giving Trends research showing only 1% of 18-24 year olds give to charity, she questioned why charities would sell their souls to the fickle Millennials.

In fact, my research shows that Millennials give more as they reach their 30s, which must correlate to earning capacity. But the irony was that in an earlier presentation Tracy had outlined some of the many ways in which to engage younger donors. What’s more, she was overlooking a key fact. As the Boomers die out, the Millennials are set to become the primary beneficiaries of the biggest private wealth transfer in history, estimated at $40 trillion in the US alone.

Although Harvey argued strongly that the Boomers need donor Viagra to keep their giving up, Andrew Sabatino was not convinced. Keeping things well below the belt, he quoted Veritas’ research showing that charities are spending 500% more on the Millennials but bringing back 61% less because marketing to Millennials is deemed sexier. Hmm…  Andrew then did a straw poll singling out a 60-something-year-old in the audience, whose annual giving at $2500 was, of course, way more than a young 25-year-old who had given nothing. Ah, what scare tactics!

In a brilliant riposte, Harvey played his trump card. Donning a blond wig, he warned the audience of leaving the future of the world in the hands of a well-known Boomer ‘philanthropist’. Yes, you guessed it, none other than Donald, the US Republican candidate. Harvey and Melanie won the debate but it was close…

In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote by young Melbourne philanthropist and member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation of Giving, James Ostroburski:

“The next generation has the potential to be some of the most significant philanthropists the world has ever seen.”


{loadposition blogsocialshare}