Four ways millennials are changing charitable giving

The baby-boomer generation is starting to wind down, as professionals with decades under their belts settle into retirement and make way for millennial talent in their organizations.

By the co-chairs of The Breakfast of Champions

The problem is that people aren’t always quite aware of how many industries will be affected by a new wave of social and business theology and practice.

It’s quickly becoming clear that with the arrival of millennials comes a shift in how philanthropy is viewed and executed. This new crowd of up-and-coming professionals expect transparency and hands-on experiences. There’s a need to be able to identify and tangibly work with the issues at hand. As millennials with a great deal of fundraising experience, we have some ideas on what charitable organizations should be doing to make themselves more attractive and millennial-friendly.

Personify your problem

For older generations, the ‘why’ of charitable giving has been based on facts and statistics. The overwhelming view was “You want my money? Okay, show me exactly what specific things need improvement and how my money can change those numbers”. Millennials still care about how their money can benefit and help change an issue, but they aren’t swayed purely by the numbers. The numbers don’t tell the whole story anymore; you need to personify the stats. The people affected are the headline, and the stats have become secondary data. Millennials want the story. Give them a face, a name or a real-world example.Who’s being affected by the issue? What is their money really going to do? Who is it truly going to help and how?

Don’t underestimate the value of donated time

The reality for many young professionals is that giving money to a cause isn’t financially feasible. Student debt, rent and living expenses all quickly add up, especially in larger cities across Canada. The problem is, we’ve become so focused on the money, that we forget the other ways people can donate, like with their time.

Volunteering is a huge contribution, especially from an age group like millennials where that time can be used to build their professional skills, network or simply enjoy the experience for themselves. Volunteers lessen your load, they spread the word about your cause, and they add a more relatable dynamic. When you present people with a group of volunteers, freely giving up their time to help the cause, it adds a level of legitimacy that cannot easily be replicated. It humanizes your cause, and again, what do millennials want? They want a cause with a face and a person to connect to.

Make your cause engaging

Millennials aren’t passive charitable givers. The idea of writing a cheque and handing it off rarely appeals to them because it lacks a social connection. Adding to that, they also need to see tangible results from their contributions and interact with a community of people fighting for the same causes.

This is where organizations and institutions have to realize that asking for donations just doesn’t cut it anymore. The biggest thing is planning an event. Bringing millennials into a social setting allows them to pick each other’s brains and get a stronger grasp on what exactly they’re supporting. We live in the age of information overload, and everything is just a click away. The next wave of consumers, professionals and charitable givers expects to understand and help mold the solutions to the problems they’re tackling. So give them that. Bring in spokespeople on the issue, experts who have devoted their lives to it, and let them learn from each other. Charity is no longer solely about dollars, but also about sense.

Make your charity social media friendly

Social media is the crux of any millennial societal question. So how do you make charitable giving more interesting and millennial-friendly? Make it accessible and shareable through social media.Young professionals want to be able to share what they’re engaged in. It allows them to build connections with like-minded people, start online conversations on topics that they are passionate about and have their voices heard on a larger scale. Spreading the word on the movements they’ve committed to becomes incredibly important, and you need to provide them with channels and content that allow them to maximize the reach of their voice.

Simon Leith, David Leith and Jonathan Tong are the co-chairs of Breakfast of Champions in support of SickKids, an annual charitable networking event geared towards connecting young professionals with some of Canada’s most celebrated business and community leaders. Since its inception in 2012, Breakfast of Champions has raised over $750,000 for various underfunded areas at SickKids. Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to the Division of Cardiology at SickKids. Please visit for further details.