It's time to meet millennials where they give

In 2017, online giving reached over $20 billion and 37 percent of all millennial donors used their mobile device to give a gift online.

Allan Amico

Allan Amico Allan Amico

The trends are hard to ignore.

Some 21 percent of online donations were made on a mobile device – a substantial increase from the previous year. In 2017, online giving reached over $20 billion and 37 percent of all millennial donors used their mobile device to give a gift online.

There’s an increased reliance on mobile devices to provide everyday services that anticipate our individual needs and respond to our resources. Think of platforms like Uber, Netflix, and the wealth management tool Acorns. Yet, despite millennials’ avowed commitment to both their mobile devices and to giving back and making an impact, the nonprofit sector has been slow to give their philanthropic efforts this same kind of "personalization treatment."

Nonprofits have found success raising money using more traditional means such as written checks, one-off website donations, and fundraising events. But Millennials – and their cell phones – account for over $30 billion of the overall $280 billion market for individual donations - and, over the course of the next two decades, they are projected to inherit another $30 trillion in assets. So what will they do with it?

Over the last five years, crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo have successfully processed billions of dollars in contributions because they make the process of contributing to a person’s cause or project radically simple. These platforms present the story behind a cause or project clearly and convincingly. They also make it easy for donors to give online, and most importantly, they focus on the power of small donations. Your $15 donation, when pooled with hundreds or thousands of other $15 donations, makes a significant impact. Ergo, you made a significant impact, right?

It doesn’t always feel that way – and that costs nonprofits. The overall success of crowdfunding derives from one-off campaigns and crisis-driven support. Nonprofits rely on the exact opposite kind of support - sustained, recurring, and passionate giving. They must forge a long-term relationship with donors. Conventional crowdfunding, and its easy online desktop transactions, doesn’t facilitate that connection.

Now that mobile giving is a rapidly growing market, how does the nonprofit sector draw people, namely millennials, toward personalized, mobile giving? It must find a way to tap into the crowdfunding ethos of effective storytelling, small donations and ease of transaction – and then take it one step further.

Giving to nonprofits must become a personalized experience organized around donors. Bringing philanthropy into a Millennial’s burgeoning suite of personalized everyday services and apps will maximize its growth and impact on this generation. Flipping crowdfunding on its head, and leading with the donor, instead of the cause, is the best way to capture the robust energy of online donations and transform donor support into a more reliable, consistent and powerful stream of nonprofit revenue.