Gen Z giving: How nonprofits can reach next-gen donors

Gen Z—the youngest generation of givers born between 1997-2012—are quickly redefining what it means to be charitable to causes important to them. Raised in a world where smartphone culture has always been prevalent, next-gen donors in Gen Z can be characterized as digital natives—never without access to the internet and social media in their pockets. Along with an aptitude for technology, Gen Z is also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in America and on track to be the most educated, according to Pew Research Center.

But with higher levels of education comes more debt. With 13% more than millennials, Gen Z is facing a difficult economy and a strain on their bank accounts due to student loans, layoffs stemming from a recession, and inflation.

Surprisingly though, this next generation of young donors might become the most generous base of supporters for nonprofits to date. According to Giving USA’s Giving by Generation special report, they were also the top generation in gift frequency: 11.4 times within 12 months. 

Why next-gen donors give

While money is tight for all generations, Gen Z struggles uniquely with the added pressures of less career experience and more student debt. In fact, young donors are 38% more likely than other generations to have made significant changes to their lifestyle due to the economy.

But that’s not stopping them from being nearly 2.5 times more likely to increase their donations year over year. Recent survey respondents in a survey by Classy gave their top reasons to give as increases in donor passion, need for donations and relevance of the cause.

Gen Z is also a virtuous generation, saying the reason they donate is because they feel it’s just the right thing to do. When they make a donation with money or time to an organization, they report feeling good about themselves, seeing the widespread benefits of giving for all.

As for when next-gen donors are most motivated to give, 60% give to new causes when they see a pressing need in the news or in response to a timely appeal. When a crisis or social injustice hits the news, Gen Z are amongst the first to feel a sense of urgency to support the cause, being 1.6 times as likely to be motivated to donate after a news event.

Because they are digital natives, they understand the direct impact their donation can have and show their agility and scrappiness to respond real-time. 

Among the top causes they give to? The environment and animals, health and disaster relief make up the top three areas of philanthropic causes they support.

How Gen Z gives

Digital giving is on the rise

Because Gen Z was raised in a digital world, never knowing life without constant internet and the prevalence of social media, it’s no surprise they are the most comfortable giving to causes online. 

  • More than three quarters (76%) of Gen Z say they give online 
  • Nearly half of Gen Z and millennials are likely to use a QR code to donate (versus just 6% of Boomers)
  • Aside from Boomers, all other generations say they prefer to respond online in response to a direct mail appeal

It’s also clear that a strong giving website matters: Nonprofits’ websites were the top motivator, moving above social media, in determining whether to donate. 

Tap into texting

An emerging channel for charitable giving is texting, with Gen Z leading the charge in the adoption. 13% of Gen Z say they have given via text, compared with Millennials and Gen X trailing at 7%. Just 3% of Boomers have given via text. 80% of Gen Z—the highest percentage of any generation polled—were willing to receive monthly texts from nonprofits 

While Gen Z are the quickest and most willing adopters of texting as a means of giving, all generations except Boomers showed an increase in willingness to respond to a solicitation via text. 

Peer-to-peer influence 

Because of their willingness and propensity to give based on a current event or crisis, Gen Z donors are the most likely to give through grassroots movements (as opposed to large, formal organizations) through means like social media or peer-to-peer crowdfunding platforms

Young donors are also advocates for causes they care about. Gen Z and millennial donors are three times as likely to advocate for an organization versus older donors.

Invest in next-gen donors 

From recent research, it’s clear that Gen Z is poised to be an exceptionally generous and passionate generation. The time to plan for reaching, engaging with, and inspiring these next-gen donors is now.

Here are some tips to meet Gen Z where they are and ensure you don’t get left behind as giving preferences continue to evolve for next-gen donors.

Lean into mentorship

Next-gen donors are more likely to give to an organization they’ve heard about from peers or influencers in the spaces they engage with. They are hungry for guidance and knowledge from older generations who have walked the path before them. 

Lean into this influencer effect with an organization network that can offer things like mentorship, career guidance, business directories and other opportunities for connection and knowledge sharing. Over time, young donors will form a kinship with others who support the same cause, making them more willing and able donors. 

Guide: 7 Ways to engage Gen Z through a virtual network

Create an optimized omni-channel donor strategy

With texting on the rise and a preference for giving digitally, make sure you are leveraging a multi-channel approach to reaching donors. Tap into texting software for updates and solicitations, and use a robust, branded giving platform to make it seamless and easy for young donors to give. 

Once young donors are in your database, steward them via email and video channels to create a digital donor experience, keeping your organization top of mind for those donors all year long. 

Guide: 10 Ways to build trust with your donor base

Steward them all year long 

Young donors are giving, on average, 11.4 times in a year—nearly once per month and more frequently than any other generation! 

A strong stewardship strategy with personalized, authentic communications that include organization updates, event invitations, video messages, and strategic solicitation will turn a one-time donor into a recurring one. 

Guide: Use video to steward donors and retain supporters

The next generation of philanthropy

The next generation of donors is primed to become the most generous to date. With Gen Z’s giving driven by a sense of urgency, it’s critical to be adaptive and innovative to ensure they meet them where they are. 

It’s important that today’s nonprofits invest in next-gen donors through things like mentorship, an omni-channel engagement strategy and authentic, personalized stewardship. 

Gravyty’s integrated engagement and fundraising platform lets you scale a personalized donor experience, build donor pipeline and nurture your community. Learn more.

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