Five Predictions about the Next Generation of Giving: How Retailers and Nonprofits Need to Adopt Technology to Harness Millennial Donors [Print Ready Byline Article]

Look no further than the recent ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge and you will see that today’s consumers care deeply about causes. They embrace brands that support the causes they care about. More so than ever before, consumers – millennials in particular – use mobile devices and social media to communicate about their cares and causes. And they demand immediacy, especially when a disaster or crisis calls for swift action.

The Millennial Impact, which surveyed 6,500 people ages 20-35, found that nearly 50 percent follow between one and five nonprofits on social media. It also found that 75 percent of young people reported that they gave to a nonprofit and 90 percent expected to volunteer for a charity in the next year. According to Blackbaud’s Generational Giving Report, most millennials say they would give via mobile phone and 8 percent have gone as far as donating via social media. Additionally, a study conducted by market-research firm Millward Brown Digital found that 75 percent of donors begin their research of charities online and a full 25 percent make donations via mobile devices. Perhaps the end of both the penny and the storefront donation jar are near.

The Blackbaud report noted that several philanthropic leaders recognize that in order to reach young donors, they need to harness both technology and connectivity, a notion I wholeheartedly endorse. Nonprofit organizations, retailers and the companies that service them will need to embrace technology and transparency, and utilize the power of social media to truly maximize their role in the future of giving.

So what does the future of giving look like?

    1. Handwritten check donations will go the way of the Dodo Bird, the VHS tape and telephone booths. According to a 2011 Charles Schwab Teens & Moms Survey, in 2007, 74 percent of 18 year olds surveyed said they knew how to write a check. In 2011, that number dropped to 65 percent. The days of mailing a check to a charity like your grandparents did just before tax time will be replaced with donations on the ever-present Smartphone through real-time social interaction. Nonprofits should prepare to collect donations via apps tied to smart cards, mobile devices and social media accounts. Retailers should offer donation opportunities and rewards via social and mobile marketing. And both should establish synergistic, app-to-app interaction with their fans and followers.

    2. Fundraising will go hyper-local. Regional, local, and mom and pop retailers will be able to participate in national campaigns. Similarly, smaller, local nonprofits will harness local business resources. Thanks to geofencing, GPS and application programming interface (API)-based rewards programs, retailers will be able to tie specific SKUs to specific offers, make tangible products available for nonprofit rewards programs, and customize offers by geography and availability. They will even know when a consumer is in their store parking lot and be able to suggest he or she purchase a disaster preparedness item or make a donation, and then reward them for their transaction. National and international nonprofit organizations can branch out to include small pizza chains, regional boutiques and chain franchisees in their drives and rewards programs. No one will feel they are too small to make a difference.

    3. Transparency will flourish. It’s no secret that there is a lot of cynicism about how charities spend their money. In a day and age where people share everything and very little is private, consumers are going to demand to see where their money is going and how they are helping. Much like a robust FedEx or UPS tracking service for donations, nonprofits will have web-based dashboards to manage campaigns to show a donor the donation path of their money. This may be as granular as showing video footage of the case of supplies someone helped pay for being handed to a disaster survivor in need. Those nonprofits that are unable (or unwilling) to provide transparency will likely lose followers and funds to those who are willing to share.

    4. Efficiency will replace duplication. Just after Hurricane Sandy, my colleagues and I witnessed a citizens’ group in New York City use an online wedding registry to solicit supplies; donations came pouring in to the local church with everything the group needed and no duplicates. Much as wedding registry lists have eliminated the bride and groom opening five crock pots, onboarding and SKU management systems will allow nonprofit organizations, schools and others in need to post wish lists and have their needs met. Moreover, as donations roll in and needs shift during real-time disasters, the needs list can be updated in real-time.

    5. Social and mobile media will rule. By nature, consumers like to help. And when we do something nice, we like to boast to friends and get others involved in causes we care about.  Based on consumers’ social media and online habits, nonprofits and retailers will be able to connect with consumers in meaningful ways to let followers know about causes they might care about. These organizations will then be able to thank donors with personalized rewards and future upsell opportunities. To partake, organizations need to build meaningful mobile apps and boost their social media fan base.

    Unless nonprofits and retailers want to disappear like grandma’s checkbook, they are going to need to embrace the role of technology and social efficacy in the future of giving. They need to run their outreach like a technology business. They need to invest in the top-level down teams that embrace the massive role mobile and social technology play in cause marketing. They need to hire technology experts (not just a summer intern with witty Tweets) or outsource consultants who can build meaningful apps. Finally, they need to create corporate social responsibility teams within their organization to engage fans year-round so they are ready to mobilize in times of need.

    About the Author

    Syd Dufton, president and CEO of WeWIN,has over 15 years of experience driving aggressive growth for early stage tech companies in mobile, e-learning, ecommerce and consumer software markets. By directly integrating with retailer ecommerce systems, WeWIN brings brands and causes together wherever they are.