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Young donors – Web economy creates wealth

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By Ann Claycombe

COLFAX, N.C. — Nonprofits will need to change their attitudes and approaches if they want to build relationships with young donors.

That’s what Ed Chaney, executive director of North Carolina Youth for Tomorrow, told a meeting of the Triad chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives on July 25.

“It is our job to transform our organizations so that they see young people as assets,” he said. 

Traditionally, nonprofits have seen older people as more financially secure and thus as better donors, Chaney said.  The booming Web economy has changed that somewhat, as has the prospect of the tremendous wealth expected to be transferred between generations over the next 50 years or so.

Many groups are still unsure how to reach out to young people, however, said Chaney, who then offered some advice.

“Young donors are different from old donors, and those differences are important,” he said. 

Young donors want to be involved beyond simply giving money, he said.  Because they have only worked in a booming economy, he said, young donors want visible results.  And the speed of communications technology has made them impatient and hungry for constant updates.

Perhaps most importantly, Chaney said, young people give the lie to the idea that “people fund people, not ideas.”  Young donors care about values, and are willing to invest in them, he said.

Nonprofits must also include more young people on their boards and in other positions of power.  A nonprofit with a mostly white or male staff and board will have trouble cultivating black or female donors, he said, adding that age is no different.

To demonstrate the extent of the problem, Chaney asked people in the audience to raise their hands if 25 percent or more of their organization’s board was younger than 50 years old. A minority did so, and many of those lowered their hands when he lowered the required age to 40. When Chaney reduced that again to 30, only three or four hands were left in the air.

North Carolina Youth for Tomorrow is a statewide organization offering networking and professional support to young nonprofit professionals.  The group works in partnership with the Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management at Duke University.

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