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Getting Millennials to Give Back: Overcoming Common Roadblocks and Objections
Hadley Rosen

Fundraising and millennials are an interesting mix. Although on average millennials have more debt, lower incomes, they are more concerned with social justice, more charitable and participate in social-media driven challenges more than any other generation. Despite coming into the workforce at an uncertain time, the sheer number of individuals belonging to the millennial generation and their willingness to contribute money and time makes engaging them in philanthropy a high priority.

Let's take a look at the most common objections millennials make to giving back to their child’s school or alma mater, and how to overcome them with strategy and technology.

Objection 1: I can’t afford it! 

Knowing that millennials are as both financially strapped as they are philanthropic, it is easy to conclude that they want to give, but might not have the means. Therefore, making donations easy, incremental, affordable, is essential for earning donations from this large demographic.

The Solution: Monthly Giving Programs

choate's giving page on their website

The affordability objection is probably true. We know that millennial parents and alumni donors are stretched more than ever.  There’s big competition for their remaining charitable dollars, especially with political and social causes high on their list.  

The solution may lie in making giving attainable with monthly giving programs. Millennials are used to paying varying amounts each month for Netflix, Birchbox or Blue Apron. Why not boost participation by making it simple for them to sign up to make monthly gifts on your site? As a young graduate of Pomfret School, I signed up for an early iteration of monthly giving in 2005, around $10 a month at the time, and definitely gave more than she would have otherwise given in one swoop! And, statistics back this up: they show that recurring donors give 42% more per year than one-time donors (source). 

It’s simple to set up recurring gifts with Finalsite’s Forms Manager, as Choate’s “Give Now” page shows. Donors can set up the parameters of their monthly gifts easily, selecting the frequency of donation, designate their gift to a certain area, and then “set it and forget it” for the year.

Tying in a young alum’s graduation year or the year of your school’s founding—likely a $18-20 contribution—can make an impact, too. The Hill School asks graduates to give a gift of $18.51 a year, since they were founded in 1851, for the first five years after they graduate. Students can break this amount up into monthly payments if they wish. This gets students into the habit of giving, and the school has had success slowly increasing the amount they ask for by upping the suggested donation at each class’ five year reunion. 

Harnessing the power of authenticity and testimonials, George Washington University worked with Finalsite partner eCity to construct content for a giving campaign that acknowledged the plight of millennials, but recognized they they do in fact want to give back. The campaign shows that the institution knows that young donors have student loans, entry-level salaries, and may be trying to save for a house, but that their gift still makes an impact. 

This empathy tells millennial donors: “They care about me, understand me and are working with me.”

Objection 2: Why Should I Give to a Private School when “Real” Causes Need My Support? 

This generation cares about everything from the environment to social justice, and have been the force behind movements like Boxed Water and the elimination of plastic straws. But millennials also value education more than any other generation, and as a school, you can work with that.

The solution: Resonate with millennial donors like other nonprofits do. 

Of course natural disasters, political fundraisers and myriad races and charities demand millennial’s financial support. In fact, 84% of millennials give to charities, particularly to events like the ice-bucket challenge, to text-based donation campaigns for hurricanes and floods, and to political causes like the Bernie Sanders campaign.  What do these other causes do well? They show impact. Take a look at the American Red Cross’ site that immediately shares that $0.91 of every dollar goes into their humanitarian causes and programs.

And while schools often don’t wish to enumerate every donation in that way, sharing that gifts impact faculty development, classroom enrichment, or financial aid can go a long way. 

An infographic is an easy way to get granular with impact instead of sharing that dollars reach a numerical goal that may feel detached from actual programs. Charlotte Country Day also has a great example of a scannable infographic, while still showing what the school is able to accomplish thanks to the gifts and support they receive. Millennials like easy, scannable information—no long letters from your director of advancement, please!

Because millennials have limited funds, explaining where their money goes is essential. Sites like Kiva.Org let donors know that $25 or $50 can help a refugee family purchase a tarp, or allow a woman start a small business. Can you say the same for how small gifts make an impact at your school? If not, it’s time to do some research to let millennials know their donations matter. 

Sidwell Friends does a great job showing impact with a simple page that demonstrates how sharing $500 can provide athletics equipment or a gift of $400 allows a student to rent an instrument. And while these donations in particular might be a bit high for millennial donors, these easy, round numbers resonate. 

Using Finalsite’s inbound marketing tools, like website personalization, to serve up content to donors based on location helps schools reach their donor base overseas. For example with geo-targeting that changes browser language, while the email marketing tools available with Finalsite inbound will soon allow schools to target their emails to donor segments and measure what works with a/b testing. 

Objection 3: It’s too hard to give!

Millennials are busy, judgmental, and impatient — so if you make it difficult to give, that is likely an accurate objection. However, the perfect combination of strategy and tech can make donations easy.

Solution: Make it simple with payment gateways and mobile-friendly options

You may have heard the phone is the new millennial wallet; with simple payment apps like Venmo and built-in mobile wallets like ApplePay, it’s safe to say that millennials don’t carry around their checkbooks. So, if you site has a long, complex form that’s cumbersome to complete on a phone, you’re probably missing the chance to engage a millennial donor who’s ready to give now. 

Take a look at Pomfret School’s site, for example, who understand millennials handle most (if not all) of their finances online — and probably don’t own a checkbook. This school understands its audience and uses payment forms they’re used to — including Venmo!

If your school wants to simplify online payments for donors and your development team, Finalsite Payments may be a good fit for you! Finalsite Payments, powered by BlueSnap, is a new online payment tool that’s integrated into the Finalsite platform that makes it easy for schools to receive donations in 133 currencies, online or on mobile devices, all in a payment gateway that matches the school’s branding. 

For schools hosting fall alumni gatherings, homecoming weekends, reunions, or those traveling internationally for donor events, Finalsite Payments will mean millennial donors simply need to use their phone to give via ApplePay, Paypal or more than 100 other eWallets and payment gateways. You can even set up recurring donations right from Finalsite Payments. 

Millennials are changing the way schools communicate with donors and share their goals, but with the right stewardship and a great site and mobile experience, the results of engaging this loyal group means they’ll make a lasting investment in your school. 

Is your school doing a great job of engaging millennial donors? Let me know and you could be featured in an upcoming webinar! 

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