Are charities misunderstanding younger audiences?

School Strike for Climate. Credit: Julian Meehan

Guest Bloggers | 14 August 2019

Charities and fundraisers can't afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to connecting with younger generations, says Milo McLaughlin from Signal.

A recent report by Charity Comms points out that generation z will be entering adulthood as soon as 2022, yet meanwhile, many charities are still trying to work out how to convert more of their older brothers and sisters (aka millennials) into regular givers.

First let’s get something out of the way. Dismissing younger people as unlikely to support your cause is a disservice not only to them, but also to your charity and beneficiaries. And it’s probably based on assumptions rather than facts. 

The most generous generation

For one thing, the kids definitely do give a damn. Inspired by the example of 16 year old activist Greta Thunberg, children all around the world are uniting in a series of school strikes to protest the lack of action by adults on the climate emergency. It has been a hugely hopeful moment that proves young people not only care, but are willing to take real action on the causes that matter to them.

Generalising about entire generations or demographic groups is dangerous ground, of course. But there’s real evidence that suggests this isn’t a one-off. According to their report ‘Whatever Next? Public Engagement in 2022’, Charity Comms found that there was a 83% rise in youth volunteering between 2003 and 2013. 

And according to Blackbaud’s ‘The next generation of UK Giving report’, generation and millennials now donate a combined £2.7bn per year to charity, making them the most generous generation, surpassing even baby boomers. 

Not only that, but 40% of this age group say they plan to increase the amount they give to charity in the next year - which is more than double any other generation.

One-size-fits-all supporter journeys won’t work

So yes, younger people are engaged and willing to give to the causes they value. But expecting this generation of digital natives to behave in similar ways to older age groups would be unwise. 

This is the part that is probably most worrying for charities when it comes to future income. Blackbaud’s research suggests that regular giving is declining with each successive generation, with those born after 1981 (Gen Z & Millennials) 16% less likely to give regularly than ‘matures’ (born before 1946). 

Charities will need to be more responsive

Plotting out predictable year-long supporter journey programmes may currently work for older generations. But the evidence suggests they have already settled on the causes they want to support and the amount they want to give, and are unlikely to change their minds. 

A more flexible, responsive approach is needed for younger generations who expect personalised, cross-channel experiences from the organisations they interact with. 

The first step is for charities to replace assumptions and generalisations about younger people with a clear understanding of their behaviour and preferences, based on real evidence. That will allow them to pinpoint the critical moments where their current communications aren’t resonating with that audience. 

From there, they can go on to make small but significant changes to their content that will shift the balance towards greater engagement and a longer-lasting relationship with younger supporters. And having a clear view of the results makes this a repeatable process that can be enhanced over time.

We’re helping charities take a more data-driven and responsive approach to supporter journeys. To find out more about how this has helped the British Heart Foundation, download our free whitepaper

Milo McLaughlin is a Content Writer and Editor for Signal.



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