Want More Young Professional Donors? Remember the Basics.

A few years ago, I decided to get involved with a local organization whose mission was in line with my personal and professional interests at the time. I jumped in with both feet, joining one committee, then another.

I volunteered for the crowdfunding campaign, signed my office up for a fundraiser and invited friends to serve on the committees with me. I felt like I was really giving this organization my all. That is, until a new Development Director started…

Although this individual had met me several times, she would barely acknowledge me in the office and even completely ignored me several times at events (this was months after she had started, so not during the newbie grace period).

Now, I know I’m not a CEO writing the $25,000 check, but I WAS one of the more active and engaged volunteers at the organization. The value of my time (most of which was given by my employer) was certainly worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars and my time was in demand from several other nonprofit organizations.

During this period I was not in a position to donate significant amounts of money, but I certainly didn’t feel like donating anything after being repeatedly snubbed by the person in charge of stewarding my fledgling donor journey.

So what would have made a difference in my experience as a young volunteer (and would-be donor)?

Having worked in fundraising myself, I can appreciate the temptation to direct all emotional resources toward the biggest donors. However, if you want to know how to engage the younger generations, it starts with making us feel appreciated and respected as volunteers and contributors, no matter the dollar amount we give.

I’m not talking about profuse over-glorification of efforts… I simply mean learning our names, saying thank you and giving us opportunities to rise to the challenges your organization is taking on. Young professionals don’t expect top billing for the annual gala, but we do want to know that we’re making a difference and be extended the same basic courtesies as more established donors.

After my transition to a new job, I gradually drifted away from the organization. I’m now happily volunteering at several nonprofits that graciously and frequently acknowledge my contributions of time and effort. In return, they have earned an increasingly bigger piece of my charitable giving, too. 

M&C is a proud sponsor of YNPNkc, which provides diverse opportunities for networking around Kansas City, and partners with Nonprofit Connect to offer professional development programming for young professionals in the nonprofit sector.