How to engage young donors—before they graduate

Before reaching their highest levels of giving, most major donors start with gifts of less than $100 shortly after graduation, steadily working their way up to major gifts over an average of 19 years.

Because of this, engaging young donors now is a critical step in building a pipeline for future major gifts.

However, millennial donors are notoriously difficult to engage. For example, while 73% of millennial donors intend to give to their alma maters in the future, only 45% have actually made a gift.

Do your gift appeals inspire young donors?

To encourage students to build a habit of giving, some institutions have launched "experiential philanthropy" programs that give students real-world practice with philanthropy. In a recent article for The Conversation, three philanthropy researchers discuss the programs: Jodi Benenson, assistant professor of public administration at the University of Nebraska; David Campbell, associate professor of public administration at Binghamton University; and Lindsey McDougle, assistant professor of public affairs and administration at Rutgers University Newark.

In experiential philanthropy programs, students receive real money (usually around $10,000) and give it to nonprofit organizations.

To measure the method's effectiveness, McDougle surveyed 600 students who took an experiential philanthropy course between 2009 and 2013 at Northern Kentucky University (which pioneered the programs). The survey found that participants did, in fact, grow more interested in donating and volunteering.

When considering whether to launch an experiential philanthropy program, one common challenge is finding a source for the money that students give away, the authors write. They report that some of the most common sources include foundations such as the Learning by Giving Foundation and Once Upon a Time Foundation (Benenson et al., The Conversation, 11/26).

3 strategies for connecting your millennial alumni to a cause

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