Generation Y

Part 4 of #5 : Myths of arts & culture fundraising from National Arts Fundraising School Director Bernard Ross.

‘Millennials’ – or Generation Y – is a general term for a demographic that includes anyone born from early 1980s to mid 1990s – a number of whom are now turning 30 or even closing on 40.

There’s a lot of discussion – or more properly chatter – about how to involve this generation in fundraising. Suppliers and vendors will offer you sophisticated platforms to engage them through WhatsApp, Instagram or other platforms that ‘young people’ use. But once you have them engaged, can you monetize the engagement? (For example, some charities like Greenpeace have many thousands of young super-engaged supporters. However, that super-engagement means that they ask a lot of questions – and take up a lot of time – but may not be the highest value donors. More than that, they may not be loyal. There’s evidence that, although highly engaged, Millennials tend to be more likely to switch loyalties or interests than other groups.)


You can also find lots of debate online about whether this generation is mean because they don’t contribute very much to charity, or magnanimous because they give what they can. Let’s do some real world reality checking. It’s well established that the majority of charitable giving is provided by the over 55s. This is partly because there are more of them – certainly in the UK, at least – and also because they tend to have the disposable income that makes it possible for them to be charitable.

Finally, we come to the big one. The major opportunity in arts and culture fundraising (and in the more general fundraising world) is in death not life. Or to be more specific: legacies. In the next 10-20 years the largest single transfer of wealth in the history of the world will take place, from Baby Boomers to Millennials, GenXers and, of course, charities. You may well want to build your audience through the next generation. But it’s the current one that will pay the bills.

Key learning from the myth

The best way to secure funds from millennials is, in the words of friend and fundraising guru Sean Triner, “Wait until they’re 40.” Until then you need to focus on the key most generous demographic (which might well include people who are much older than your current audience) – and possibly on legacies.

What’s next?


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