Getting Millennials to “Buck Up” for Nonprofits

Getting Millennials to “Buck Up” for Nonprofits

Hi, I’m Julia. (Just in case you didn’t already meet the virtual me in a more formal introduction here.) This is my inaugural blog post for BC/DC Ideas, so I wanted to write about something that’s been on my mind recently.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nonprofits and giving lately since I’ve taken this internship position. Shocker, right? I have also found myself listening more intently to my peer’s conversations about these topics.

Last week when we were talking about social responsibility my friend commented, “Yeah, my anthropology class is really depressing because it is making me realize that just about anything you buy or do has a negative impact.” She paused before continuing, “But, I just don’t have the time to think about those kinds of things right now.”

With this type of attitude holding prominence among America’s 20-somethings, how can nonprofits motivate them to action? Rather, how can nonprofits appeal to my generation?

We all witnessed the impact of the KONY 2012 video reminding us that utilizing creative approaches in non-traditional media can foster a wave of people who rally-around-the-cause. With close to 84 million views, I’d say the video spread like wildfire. When it comes to garnering real support dollars from this audience, however, it’s easier said than done.

Research and even campaigns like KONY 2012 have showed us that Generation Y, or “the Millennial generation” that ranges from ages 18-30, is fond of the socially responsible lifestyle, and they’re eager to share.

In fact according to The Millennial Donors Report 2011, 71.7% of Millennial donors said they’d be willing to communicate with friends and family about ways to be involved in an organization they support. Reflecting upon my friends and their involvement with their favorite organizations, this percentage makes sense because people often speak highly about the community groups with which they volunteer. But, maintaining a good reputation will not fund the nonprofit efforts.

So, how do you transform those millennial social supporters into a dollar donors based on findings from The Millennial Donors Report 2011?

  1. Get in their face.  
    • Don’t be abrasive, but take the time to make a pitch face-to-face. Face time matters to Millennials. 91% of Millennial donors are at least somewhat likely to respond to a face-to-face request for money from a non-profit organization; 27% being highly likely to respond to such a request.
    • Another source, The Next Generation of American Giving showed in 2012 the most popular donor channel for Generation Y was checkout donation at 57%.
  2. Befriend their friends.
    • Most Millennial donors say they would be likely or highly likely to to donate to an organization if asked by a family member (74.6%) or a friend (62.8 %).
  3. Maintain their trust.
    • It’s important to Millennials that organizations keep their word. In fact, they put such value on trust that 84% said they would be somewhat or very likely to donate to organizations that they can fully trust, and 90% said they would stop giving to an organization that they could not trust.
  4. Make the ask.
    • Most people in my generation have never been asked by a nonprofit to give a donation. We hear from our friends to garner support, but few nonprofits explain to us how we can really make an impact with a donation. We’re not a lot cause, so you may as well just ask.

In all honesty,  these steps remind me of building any other good relationship. Just remember to use good sense, make your pitch personal, tap into our social circles and be trustworthy. If you do all of those things and simply ask, we’ll likely remember you the next time we’re deciding where to donate.

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Kate Runy


A passionate technical wizard, Kate thrives on managing online content, social media for communications, and development projects.  Kate is the workhorse of the team, pulling out amazing feats of content creation and management week in and week out. 

Prior to joining BC/DC Ideas, Kate coordinated website and social media content, communications, and advertising for Go Global NC and Alzheimer’s NC.

Things that make her happy: I love animals about as much as I love working for nonprofits.

Mishel Gomez Cespedes


Mishel brings a passion for video storytelling and quippy social media content to the team.  At BC/DC Ideas, she is most likely editing video or scheduling the next moving social media post for our clients.

Her ear for storytelling is her greatest asset. Mishel has a unique ability to assemble content into a concise story that moves audiences to action.

A graduate of Wake Forest University she spent a semester in Spain and years serving her community through the campus organizations. Now, she is putting her passion for good to work.

Brian Crawford

creative director

Mix equal parts nerd and creativity and that’s Brian. A natural problem-solver, Brian’s ability to cut to the core of any problem helps guide our creative team to the correct solution without wasted time or money. It’s the core, this little nugget of truth, that helps our clients take the next step with their audiences.

Brian gets the greatest joy out of helping our clients realize and connect with their story. He is a true believer that everyone and every organization has a compelling story to tell, you just have to listen with an open heart.

Things that make him happy: Hanging out at the park with family, toddler-speak, hitting the focus pull, and good coffee.

Dawn Crawford


The engine behind BC/DC Ideas, Dawn has dedicated her career to good. Dawn brings her considerable experience and expertise to helping elevate the nonprofit sector. Our team’s lead strategist, Dawn is often seen leading our IdeaStorms, penning communications plans, or checking in with clients.

Before launching BC/DC Ideas in 2010, she earned her chops in 10+ years of communications leadership roles for public health, healthcare and youth-focused nonprofits. Working for nonprofits is Dawn’s dream job, and she loves that her 40+ hours a week make the world a better place.

Things that make her happy: A glass of champagne to celebrate big wins, Basecamp, living in the South, seeing the world, and a well-formatted spreadsheet.