Motivating Philanthropic Millennials

Fundraising professionals constantly look for trends in donor motivations.  We want to learn how to interest donors in the causes for which we work and lead them to support these causes generously.  Much has been researched and written on generational shifts in donor motivations.  Boomers and Gen Xers have similarities.  They give to the causes for which they can connect, either through a personal experience or that of a friend or loved one.  Some wealthy Boomers give because of an obligation, honoring the old adage, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Boomers are also more receptive to giving unrestricted funds, trusting organizations to use fund however needed. Gen Xers are technologically oriented.  They give online and tend to want to give for restricted purposes.

Millennials, on the other hand, are much less predictable.  We marvel at how philanthropically minded they are, yet we are just beginning to gain a clear understanding of what motivates them to give charitably.  We know that Millennials want to give to causes in which they can make a difference, and they seem to want to see their dollars in action. They want to meet the beneficiaries of their support and learn first-hand how they are impacted.  Millennials interested in owning their own businesses want to attach a social cause to their work.


We have surveyed new graduates at Palm Beach Atlantic University to see how we can engage the Millennial generation in supporting the cause of our university.  The results are giving us new ways to connect.  For example, one of the top three things that young alumni say they want to do is to meet and get to know other alumni for social and business networking purposes.  We have organized an alumni service corps that is planning and executing community service opportunities.  New graduates will work alongside of more seasoned alumni, making important connections, but at the same time, helping society.

We have also begun to invite young alumni to admissions events, so that they can participate in recruiting the next class of students.  This is a way to give Millennials hands-on involvement with their alma mater and perhaps, meeting the beneficiaries of their support!  At these events, new graduates can discuss outcomes, coursework, scholarship opportunities, internships and personal experiences with potential incoming freshmen.

A new event that we have added this past year was called Scholarship Day.  On this occasion, we invited our scholarship donors to campus to meet their scholarship recipients.  This event allowed students to show their gratitude to their scholarship donor(s), but moreover, they were able to see role models in philanthropy, which we hope helps plant the seed for their future support of PBA.

One of our most generous scholarship donors is the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which impacts more than 400 students on our campus.  We are grateful for the longstanding support of the Foundation, which is helping to foster the next generation of graduates and hopefully generous donors to Palm Beach Atlantic University and other community organizations.


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