Millennials are a generation driven by authenticity, digital nativity, and a drive to discover purposefulness in their work and lives.
Their spending habits, earning history, and values tell the first chapter of the story of America’s next generation of wealth.
As the silent generation and baby boomers grow older and become dependent on their children, millennials are the young generation of entrepreneurs, church leaders, donors, backers, partners, and investors who will decide where the majority of money goes, why it goes there, and for what purpose it is given.
This means that donor appeals, moving forward, will have to take into account the psychology of millennials, their history with money, the ways in which they are different former generations, the nature of young loyalty, and how it can mature over decades into beautiful giving partnerships with churches that can transform communities.
Failure to understand or take seriously the millennial buying base will result in a failure to build significant partnerships with the next phase of wealth production, and therefore will fail to reap donations from the next generation of wealth.
In this article, we will unpack who millennials are and, more importantly, what are their core financial practices in so far as it reflects values related to money, donations, and and worthwhile charitable causes.
Who millennials really are
Millennials make up a major portion of the United States population—83.1 Million American Citizens are millennials, to be exact. (U. S. Census Bureau).
As far as giving goes, Millennials make up 20% of total giving (Blackbaud). And that number is only increasing.
Millennials are, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, those born between 1982 and 2000.
This population is deeply concerned with using the industrially produced resources of previous generations to effect social change in the world, measured along the axis of conscientiousness and physical wellbeing in the form of racial, sexual, political, and even economic equality.
But their concern for these issues is filtered through the highest standards of any generation for the moral integrity required for handling and processing this money. What were previously considered luxury features are now the presumed stock-and-trade of the millennial eCommerce and donation experience.
Here are eleven ways that this reality manifests itself for millennials:
1. Millennials care about security
83% of Millennials are concerned about security when Online Shopping (UPS).
The “Prince from Nigeria” scams have been replaced with cloaked instagram pyramid schemes.
While grandmothers are wiring their retirement to imposters through Wells Fargo, millennials keep high cybersecurity walls, actively use VPNs on their computers and smartphones, use machine-generated 16-character alphanumeric passwords, and guard their private identity.
eCommerce is especially a critical issue for millennials.
As tools become more advanced to guard internet users from malicious actors, millennials are wary enough of scammers to recognize that they should never share identity-critical information with anyone online—at times even recognizing that cloud-based servers are not as secure as internal servers.
2. Millennials want to pay with apps
Millennials are not strictly digital natives. They were born in an analog world, and migrated easily into our smartphone age. A growing majority of millennials use smartphones in place of credit cards, debit cards, and bank account information.
Primary methods of transaction have exchanged cash and plastic for Venmo, PayPal, Square, and even brand-specific apps such as Starbucks, which includes reward incentives for using the app to make a purchase in contrast to paying directly with a card.
3. Millennials prefer eCommerce to brick and mortar
This is partly because of the time that eCommerce saves. With distributors such as Amazon, nearly all commute time to brick and mortar locations can be eliminated, which saves on both time and gas money.
Therefore, if there is ever an opportunity to defer to a digital solution over against an analog or non-recurring model, millennials will opt for the digital option.
4. Millennials prefer monthly giving to sporadic giving
40% of millennials are enrolled in a monthly giving program.
Millennials prefer to make predictable, monthly purchases than need-based, fluctuating cost.
This is why Millennials lease transportation and housing longer and more often than any other generation.
More than that, 72% of Millennials have a Netflix subscription.
Pair this with the rise in monthly “box” clubs as alternatives to as-needed products—shaving, cooking, clothing, etc.—and you can see that Millennials would rather pay a predictable monthly lump sum for a curated and consistent user experience than pay sporadic, fluctuating amounts that are more some months and less others.
5. A bad reputation is a deal-breaker for most millennial purchasing and giving decisions
40% of Millennials refer to online reviews before purchasing a product (Millennial Marketing).
This means that, in an eCommerce marketplace in which there are not 2 major companies competing for market share, but rather 2,000 brands competing for single-digit percentage points of market share, reviews drive purchasing decisions more than any other factor, after price and availability.
Millennials care about the reputation of the brands they buy from, whether their products will last, and what is the longevity of their buying relationship with any particular company.
6. Millennials prefer card over cash and check
Most preferred method of giving is debit/credit card (55%), compared to cash (14%), bank transfer (11%), or PayPal (10%). More than that, millennials more than any generation are inspired to give through social media (39%), but want to give through social media payment portals less than any other generation (16%) (2018 Trends in Global Giving Report).
This means that millennials want to engage in online commerce, but due to their security concerns, are less trusting of Silicon Valley giants who may later use or abuse their payment information privacy.
Retaining control over one’s own payment information is a critical concern for millennials, which is why it takes earning an enormous amount of trust before they are willing to permit certain apps or websites to save their credit card information.
7. Millennials love to contribute to crowdfunding campaigns
Millennials more than any other generation (46%) contribute to crowdfunding campaigns.
This is clearly prompted by the millennial instinct to contribute to something meaningful.
If others are contributing to a cause, joining in that cause to help someone in need, or helping to fund someone’s medical bills, millennials are very loose with their money.
Where they might spare their money on entertainment (more below), trips, or major purchases, they are willing to give large portions of their paycheck to help others in need through crowdfunding campaigns.
Social media companies have attempted to take advantage of this by pairing “birthday” events with crowdfunded donations.
This is compelling to millennials, and when they see someone is reaching out to the community for help, they are highly likely to give.
8. Millennials care about the big picture of the United States
In the 2018 Trends in Global Giving Report, female millennials’ (3,782) top 5 causes did not include faith & spirituality, but for males, faith was fourth (9%). The top 3 causes to millennials are the economy, education, and health care (Millennial Impact Report).
These “causes” represent deeply rooted values in millennial psychology that non-profit organizations should keep in mind as they craft their pitch for millennials to donate to them.
For example, if the non-profit is a faith-based organization, it is better to craft its pitch to boomers in terms of faith and spirituality, and it is better to craft its pitch to millennials in terms of the social impact of the organization. Both pitches represent real work that the organization is doing, but it offers each population a different angle for participating in a solution to a common problem.
9. Millennials are fairly financially successful
This means that millennials are earning almost exactly the national average ($56,516). Some assume that millennials have not yet come into their capital—and this may be true to a degree—but they have been able to generate enough wealth to meet the national average, which means that as they age, they will likely continue to build wealth and exceed the wealth base of boomers and GenX within the next several decades.
10. Millennials care about messaging over entertainment
Millennials spend 50% less on entertainment than GenX and Boomers (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is partly because U.S. millennials’ expenses are, on average, $47,112 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). A large part of these expenses are children, as over 40% of millennials are parents (Pew).
Messaging was always important to millennials—that is, before they became parents—and yet, now that they are having more and more children, the values that they look for in messaging have matured into a more conservative vision for the economy, the future of education, and the social fabric into which their children will grow.
11. Millennials are highly active on Facebook
Millennials most often post on Facebook (87%) about social causes (Millennial Impact Report). This means that millennials are highly active on platforms that launched adjacent to and along with the iPhone in 2007—including Facebook, Twitter, and later Instagram.
These are distinctively millennial platforms, and derivatively boomer-oriented platforms.
Facebook is the platform most-often used by millennials to express social concern, explain values, and crowdsource opinions, resources, and mobilize a community for an event or cause.
Churches should keep this in mind. Paired with our previous insight about the millennial predilection for security and desire not to give through Facebook directly, Facebook is a tool best used to mobilize interaction, activism, and giving elsewhere.
Over to you
Use this information to guide your interaction with millennials, your growing relationship with them, and your strategy for fundraising from them as a unique wealth base.
They will play an active role in shaping the next generation of church life, not only because of their population size, but because their growing capital will give them a voice in the growing and changing landscape of the Christian church on a global scale.