by Katy Snyder, JVA Consulting Grantwriter/Editor
As a sometimes member of Generation Y (sometimes because my 1980 birth date puts me somewhere between Generation X and Generation Y, and because I’m reluctant to identify with the negative stereotypes often assigned to this generation), I was interested to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s recent article on the challenges nonprofits have faced in reaching 19- to 29-year-olds. Turns out we’re a fickle bunch when it comes to making donations. According to the article, Generation Y members want to be directly involved in the nonprofits that they donate to, but often make relatively small donations, leaving nonprofits struggling with how much time and energy they should spend catering to younger donors. A study cited by the Chronicle found that the 18–29 crowd annually donates less than half than the 30–45 crowd (a measly $341 a year compared to $796 for the older group).
Many nonprofits that have sought to cater to this population seem to have gotten it wrong—the Chronicle cites young-donor specific committees that “feel like a seat at the kids’ table,” dumbed down media aimed at younger donors and a misplaced belief that Generation Yers only want to connect electronically. In other words, nonprofits suffer not because of a lack of effort to engage young donors, but by misguided assumptions and stereotypes that persist about the generation.
For Generation Y, only time will tell. Those vaunted Generation Xers who now give more than twice as much on average as Generation Yers were an enigma to nonprofits in years past as well. A 2005 Chronicle article that lamented the difficulty of reaching Generation X quoted a Gen Xer and nonprofit volunteer who said: “It’s proving to be a pretty troublesome generation to organizations, both in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.” Hopefully time will prove the disconnect between Gen Yers and nonprofits wrong, too.
At JVA Consulting, we often hear from clients who struggle to connect with the younger generation, both on their staff and in the populations they serve. We’d like to hear from you, either as a member of an older generation who has struggled with Generation Y, or as a member of Generation Y who feels that nonprofits could do more to appeal to them. Click here to leave a comment.