Lowering the ‘Giving Barrier’ for Millennials | npENGAGE

Lowering the ‘Giving Barrier’ for Millennials

By on Mar 2, 2017


Millennial girl on the phone

According to the Millennial Impact Report, 72 percent of Millennials are eager to join a nonprofit and a little over 50 percent would like to give monthly to a charitable organization.

When looking at these statistics, it’s clear that Millennials are eager, and would like to contribute. But what’s holding up the action? Why is the ‘Giving Barrier’ so high? Understanding that even small contributions can make an impact, why are we so hesitant to get involved?

Although millennials are clearly seeking a more meaningful life, my hypothesis is that we’d like to do so without seriously inconveniencing ourselves, more so than previous generations. Sound selfish and contradictory? Yes. But, our world of increased stimulation and increasingly instant gratification has taught us these behaviors. And nonprofits don’t have to suffer the consequences of that mindset.

As a personal offender of the false ‘I have too much going on’ sentiment, I wondered why I don’t feel that way about the organizations I’m involved in, and why these organizations have my attention, my heart, my time, and my wallet. And most importantly, what the journey to full organization immersion has looked like.

  1. It was easy to get started: I had just moved to Austin, and wanted to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, but wasn’t sure I had the time. I was getting married, settling into a new life, etc. etc. BBBS offered an option to be a part of a continued giving program. $20/month, that’s it. Easy enough. A few cups of coffee at home as opposed to Starbucks. My monthly ‘thank you’ email served as a reminder of the importance of my gift, and I began to feel like an invaluable part of the organization (there’s that instant gratification!). Over time, that good feeling remained at the front of my mind, and when I realized how great it felt to make a difference, I decided to take the next step and become a big sister.
  2. There’s always an opportunity to get involved more/in different ways: Whenever I feel the desire to get more involved, there’s always a way. Whether it’s a bowling tournament, joining an event planning committee, or simply sharing my experience with the volunteer management team, BBBS gives so many ways to continue to be involved, with varying levels of complexity/commitment. Whenever I’m ready, they’re ready, and it feels like a true partnership.
  3. Communication and support are consistent: from the beginning of my journey as a contributor and big sister, the communication and support received from this organization have been consistent and professional. I’ve always clearly understood what my contribution is funding, and my Match Support Specialist is constantly checking in to ensure things are going well. BBBS has developed local partnerships all throughout town (making volunteering easy and more fun), and I consistently receive communications about what’s happening in the organization. I feel involved, updated, and reminded of the cause I’m contributing to. Disclaimer: understand these communications cost money, and it is much easier said than done, but regardless is valued!
  4. I feel the organization is invested in me. This organization recognized that I have an interest in sharing my story and getting deeply involved, and has leveraged that opportunity to speak, build awareness about events, and encourage my friends to contribute, regardless on what level. I feel that they’re invested in me as a volunteer, and I’m certainly incredibly invested in them.

The end result of my experience with this organization is that I appreciate them (and everyone who works there), I feel fulfilled in my life (check out that selfishness!) and I’m reminded that the contributions of time and money are making a difference.

Every organization is different. What isn’t different is that it’s easier than we think to get involved. And while it’s not the responsibility of nonprofits to spoon-feed Millennials all the benefits of serving others, there are small things organizations can do to reach us in a more actionable way.

Millennials want to give with ease, but even more than that we crave a sense of purpose. If you can give us a reason to get out from behind our devices, you may help us realize that we have more time and resources to contribute than we think.

And then, true to form, we’ll pick up our devices and humble brag to our friends about our service-mindedness later—influencer marketing for you! A win for us both.


Olivia Baker is an Account Supervisor on the Capital One account at Drumroll, a digital advertising agency in Austin. A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Olivia moved to Austin from New York City seeking live music, warm weather and a little more excitement around college football. Olivia enjoys reading biographies, volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, running around Town Lake, Curra’s queso and Sundays at ABGB.

Comments (4)

  • Michael O'Teter says:

    Thanks for sharing your story! Having donated to and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters (in Dallas) for 15 years, I know what you write to be true. I am a Boomer, but my Millennial daughters have each volunteered as Big Sisters, too! It does make difference!

  • Olivia says:

    Thanks so much for reading, Michael! It’s such a great organization and they do a wonderful job of getting people involved 🙂 Your daughters are making a huge difference I’m sure!!!

  • Dee says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this! For those millennials who are trying to find the right ways to get involved (or may be feeing skeptical), reading about your experience is encouraging.

    In addition, some of the BBBS chapters (and other nonprofits too!) have young professionals groups, which is a great way for millennials to fundraise while meeting other professionals. I mention the BBBS group in my piece on the different ways to give back and get involved with charities. http://employedforgood.com/6-different-ways-to-volunteer-give-back/

    In addition to organizations reaching millennials, I’d love to get to a place where people can easily find the opportunities that speak most to them!

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