Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation

Want to attract Millennial donors? Understand what they have to contribute.
New study highlights differences between generations and their attitudes toward giving.

A new report published by Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University highlights the differences – and challenges – in reaching “Millennial” donors – adults born since 1981.

Because the majority of Millennials and even Gen Xers (born 1964 to 1980) have lower income than their parents and grandparents, they tend to give smaller amounts of money to charitable causes, whether secular or religious, the study found. One conclusion? Engage the younger generation as volunteers.

“A wise fundraiser might ask ‘why should I target the younger generations at all, if they don’t give at the same levels as other age groups?,'” said Edith Falk, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “The answer would be that Generation X is now entering its peak earning years and the Millennials are not far behind. Engaging people under 45 now as donors and volunteers using methods that appeal to their giving nature truly makes sense.”

Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the Center on Philanthropy added, “The data are clear: The average person under 30 may have lower income and wealth (compared to older groups). However, ideas, enthusiasm, and energy are important for charities. A relationship formed now based on volunteering can become a strong donor relationship as a person’s income grows over time.”

The most current data from Center on Philanthropy Panel Study forms the dataset used for analysis. In this nationally representative sample of households, based on contributions in 2006:

  • 33 percent of households headed by a Millennial gave, and the average total contributions were $557.
  • 59 percent of households headed by a member of Gen X gave, and the average total contributions were $1,488.
  • 69 percent of households headed by a Boomer gave, and the average total contributions were $2,613.
  • 77 percent of households headed by someone born before 1946 gave, and the average total contributions were slightly lower than Boomers’ average, at $2,540.

In addition to summarizing findings about generations’ charitable giving habits and attitudes, the report includes conclusions and recommendations from other studies about generational differences in giving and from members of Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Nonprofits.

The report, entitled “Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation,” is available for purchase ($15) and immediate download in the Spotlight e-newsletter section of the on-line store.