The front page of this week’s Third Sector magazine asks if there is a long-term crisis in giving, focusing on declining donations from younger people. This follows on from the Mind the Gap report published by CAF in September.
Inside, three sector experts share their views. Having recently conducted a study exploring almost precisely this subject, I feel we have a thing or two to add to the debate. Indeed, just last night we shared some of our findings with the next generation of market researchers at an MRS R-Net event.
But a crisis? How very dramatic. Yes, the data shows a definite downward trend in giving by Generation Y, but I don’t think we’ve reached crisis point just yet.
In essence, I have to agree most closely with Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising – younger people are still generous but they give in different ways. In particular we see micro-donations going to a wide range of causes and a reluctance to commit. Of course, this may change with age and as reasons to support particular charities develop through their lives, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a generation of digital natives used to a fast pace of change – and with the expectation that charities who want their support will at least keep up with the curve.
There is also no arguing with the fact made by Toby Ganley of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association that if you want young people to give, you have to ask them. That holds true for pretty much every generation. I would go further though. It’s not just about asking, it’s about really demonstrating the impact and value once you do get the donation. A generic postcard/ soft toy/ badge/ insert thank you gift here no longer cuts it for this generation, accustomed as it is to unparalleled levels of transparency in all areas of life. I know a child is starving in Africa and that jaguars are endangered. Don’t send me a picture – send me a video of what’s new on the ground this week, show me where the money is making a difference – and obviously show people why you still need their help (but without bombarding and pressurising a generation which is acutely feeling the economic pinch).
On its website, CAF has a list of five actions to help ‘tackle the donation deficit’ and whilst I don’t disagree with any of them, I think there are plenty of other things that can be done to engage and enthuse Generation Y with both donating and volunteering right now. Charities need to be more open and agile, and be prepared to take risks in the way in which they engage with this generation. This isn’t an either/ or situation – and no charity should need to put existing supporter relationships at risk to capture new ones – it’s about tailoring the supporter journey and experience to different audiences and adapting your expectations. After all, who knows what this generation will ‘grow up’ to do and become?
A summary version of our research paper will be available shortly. If you would like to receive a copy, please email me here