Chasing Millennials

Chasing Millennials


by David Allen, Development for Conservation


“The most effective way to raise money from Millennials may be to wait until they’re in their 40’s and 50’s.”


So quipped blogger Jeff Brooks several years ago. His point was that the quest to attract younger people as donors and board members is timeless.


It may even be misguided.


Millennials is the name given to the generation born between 1981 and 2000. They are all now young adults, 18-38 years old, and starting careers and families. They are all now somewhere on the “scrambling” continuum with considerably less disposable income and time than the two generations that preceded them, the Gen-Xers and the Boomers.

And they have become a Holy Grail of audience messaging, outreach, and marketing. Here are some of the things we hear a lot:

Millennials use social media, but according to The Agitator (another blog I read), 11% do not use Facebook and 27% use it less than once a week. And even that may be erroneous, because every generation uses social media more now than they did ten years ago and the trend for all generations is up.

Millennials tend to live in urban areas near where they work, but that’s only until they have kids. Then they move to the ‘burbs, just like we did when we were that age.

Millennials tend to job hop – except not. According to the online magazine FiveThirtyEight, young people have always moved between jobs early in their careers, and job-hopping is down overall from twenty years ago.

Millennials are socially conscious – except not uniquely. According to a recent Oxford Economics study, only one in five Millennials base career satisfaction on “making a difference,” and both Gen-Xers and Boomers are more likely to leave their job to follow a passion or save the world.


So, the question is: What, other than the fact that they are young, makes Millennials preferentially attractive as donors and Board members?


OK – so I’m going to step back here and give full throat to the idea that Millennials are people, too, and we should be thinking about how to effectively communicate with them as we do with any other generation. They certainly represent an important voting cohort and having environmental/conservation as a core personal value is an important flame to fan.

However, most Millennials are not ready to give significantly or to serve as Board members.


My real concern is that in our zeal to attract Millennials, we are skipping over Gen-Xers – still young enough adults in their 40s and 50s and even 60s whose kids are finishing college and whose careers are more established. Think: more discretionary time and money.

Why aren’t we equally interested – or even preferentially interested – in Gen-Xers?


What do we want from our donors? A willingness to consider supporting the mission of the organization with annual gifts approaching $1,000 or more and specific projects with gifts of $5,000 or more.

This does not describe most Millennials, but it does describe quite a few Gen-Xers and Boomers.

And what do we want from our Board members?

  • Passionate about the mission
  • Leadership
  • Smart, Curious, and Willing to Learn
  • Integrity and Good Judgement
  • Strategic and Analytical Thinking Skills
  • Plays Well with Others
  • Has time to come to meetings and events
  • Well respected in their communities

Clearly, this DOES describe some Millennials, but I would argue that these attributes are more important than age. Instead of recruiting Millennials, we should be recruiting people with these attributes, some of whom might be Millennials.

In fact, if I was going to prioritize age over other demographics, I would prioritize Gen-Xers. As Jeff Brooks has also said on his blog:

The average age of our Board members goes up by twelve months every year. It’s time we recruited younger Board members – People in their 50’s and 60’s!


Cheers, and have a great week.


Photo by Ray Hennessy courtesy of


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  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 11:06h, 24 April

    Sent this to our Advancement Committee for discussion. Thanks for another relevant topic.

  • David Allen
    Posted at 10:29h, 24 April

    From my In-Box this morning:


    Sweet blog post.

    – A Millennial who was just asked to be the President of an organization and said NO.