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Growing Our Giving Through Dynamic Donations

Originally posted on the Young Professionals Council’s website.

Millennials have been unsurprisingly a demographic hit hard by the past year’s pandemic and economic slowdown. While budgets tightened, the act of giving did not disappear as a line item. In 2020, over 75% of individuals aged 25 to 34 (“millennials”) donated to friends, family, or nonprofits. Recently, I reflected upon what makes the next generation give and how we can continue to step forward as local leaders.

My biggest lesson: be growth-minded. While talking with folx about budgets and the role philanthropy plays in their lives, I often hear that they do not have the money to give at year-end or when asked for specific events. Philanthropy, no matter the size, is about intentionality. To be growth-minded, we must see ourselves not as sponsors to hit specific levels, but as habitual donors who give according to our ability and are aligned with our values. The goal is to grow with our favorite causes over time and develop the habit of naming a line item for nonprofits.

Many forward-thinking nonprofits, such as the Spruce Foundation, have helped by establishing a dynamic donor program. By setting their monthly contribution level, the donors feel empowered to build giving into their budgeting, like for their SEPTA pass or gym membership. In one recent survey, millennials were reported to be giving $580 to nonprofits annually, or under $50 per month, less than the price of twelve Grande Frappuccinos from Starbucks.

Micro-donations are the new way to sustainable giving. Building a habit and relationship with a nonprofit is not only good for the dollar, but also good for the sense. The earlier donors invest into a nonprofit’s mission and services through their giving, the earlier these next-gen philanthropists can impact the strategic direction and grow the impact of the nonprofit’s work. Donors grow with and help grow nonprofits by engaging on a more regular basis, not only on Giving Tuesday or during an annual appeal. These relationships help when organizations look for feedback through membership surveys, strategic planning, or donor appreciation events.

Recurring giving is also dynamic for a nonprofit’s cash flows. While many expenses are fixed monthly, revenue (donations and grants) can typically be clumped into specific months or times of the year for many nonprofits. Through ongoing and regular donations from its donors, nonprofits are able to budget better, grow more sustainably, and focus more on their mission and services. By allocating less time and resources into reminding donors to engage and give, nonprofits and donors benefit from growing with a Netflix-subscription model of giving.

Many of us want our communities safer, more vibrant, more equitable and inclusive, and more engaging. Giving to our preferred causes is a critical way for us to grow into leaders in our communities. We must consider how local philanthropy can be a regular line item in our budgets, a recurring relationship with organizations, and a sustainable commitment to impacting change in our communities. It’s time that we grow how we give and become the next-gen philanthropists Philadelphia needs.