The one group you can’t figure out has been figured out for you
Asking for money is uncomfortable anyway and asking people you don’t understand can be worse, unless you learn to understand them. | by Kristine Miller
Millennial donors are considered the Holy Grail for most churches. Pastors are often heard saying, “If only we could get those young families to begin pledging…” thinking it will solve the church’s problems. However, most churches fail to engage millennial giving. They fail because millennials view giving and philanthropy much differently than previous generations. To be successful, churches need to adapt.
Traditional methods don’t work with this generation. Here’s what you need to know and do.
The millennial generation (born 1981-1997) is now over 30 percent of the population. They have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. Yet in 2016, millennials represented just over 7 percent of the donor population and contributed 5.4 percent of total giving (Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud). As the influence of this generation grows, we need to better understand how to gain their support.
Most millennials participated in community service as a high school graduation requirement. Volunteerism is something they’ve grown up with. However, encouraging giving through customary church methods won’t work. Church traditions of pledging, passing the offering plate, and multi-year volunteer commitments don’t fit Millennial giving preferences. To gain their support, first you have to understand their giving preferences.
Millennial Giving Preferences
Millennials, according to research from the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, have these characteristics:
- Non-traditional donors. Millennials donate using online giving (such as #GivingTuesday) and social giving (such as crowdfunding). Having grown up with cell phones, iPads, and the internet, technology is part of every facet of their lives–including giving.
- Express support and influence others through social media. Social media is the Millennials’ primary source of information and the most important tool to connect them with causes they care about. When supporting a cause, Millennials encourage others to follow their lead via social media.
- Confident in themselves and organizations (nonprofit and government) to create positive change. However, they want to know how their support has made a positive impact on someone else’s life. They want to witness the positive change they helped to create.
- Believers in the power of voting. They believe voting will result in changes they want to see happen.
- Passionate about making the world a better place for everyone. Millennials are motivated by stories of how the world is becoming better because of their volunteerism and financial contributions.
- Responsive to appeals that benefit others. Previously thought to be a self-absorbed generation, Millennials respond more positively to appeals that help others than to those that show personal benefit.
- Eager to be heard. Millennials advocate for causes that address issues important to them. Mostly through social media, Millennials share their support for charities they believe are making a positive impact.
How to Involve Millennials in Giving at Your Church
How are you involving Millennial giving to your church? Here are some ideas…
- Provide online giving through your website. This is no longer optional. Better yet, provide a giving kiosk, QR code in the bulletin, and text-to-give, too. Make giving easy—especially for those who have never written a check. If you are not providing e-giving options, you will not win over the Millennials.
- Tell stories of how your ministries are impacting hearts and lives. Use your church Facebook page and other communications tools. Show your Millennial members how their gifts are making a difference. Tell the stories of how your ministry is changing the world.
- Invite Millennials to volunteer—don’t ask for a three-year stint, but for a single event. If they feel they are making a difference, Millennials are likely to share their experiences on social media, volunteer again, and even bring a friend.
- Listen to your Millennials. Let their voices be heard. Most Millennials will share their opinions and passions but are unlikely to engage in debate. So listen well and heed their advice.
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