There has been much documented about the millennial population on a national level, as a potentially untapped donor base for the nonprofit sector. The research conducted by various organizations such as the Blackboard Institute on a national level portray millennials as being interested in volunteering their time to support social causes and charities that have a specific meaning to certain segments of the population. Other researchers have highlighted millennials’ focus on social responsibility, and the fact that many within the 19-38 age group will support businesses that have established a social responsibility footprint by championing certain charitable causes such as improving the environment or supporting common sense gun control policies and legislation.
Recently, Long Island Cares contracted with The AIMsights Group to implement its own research project to gauge the interest of millennials specifically on Long Island in supporting the regional food bank, and to find out how the population feels about ending hunger and lifting people out of poverty in Nassau and Suffolk County. The research findings were quite revealing, and one fact became certain in that, millennials on Long Island are not typical of millennials across the country when it comes to philanthropy and donating to local charities. One contributing factor to this discrepancy just might lie in the reality that most millennials in the United States leave their family home prior to age 24 while many on Long Island are lagging a decade behind in living independently due to the high cost of living and low wages that have come to define the Long Island Region.
The research conducted by AIMsights on behalf of Long Island Cares, Inc. took place online from June 7-13, 2019. The survey captured the responses of 525 respondents including 309 millennials between the ages of 19-34; 110 members of Gen X between the ages of 39-54; and 106 Baby Boomers between the ages of 55-73. Respondents had to earn an annual household income of least $30,000, which is just about $3,000 above the national poverty level for a family of four in the United States. An online survey was significant in reaching out to all Long Islanders and especially to millennials. One of the findings the research showed us is that, donating to a charity through its organization’s website is the top donation channel for all Long Island age groups. Therefore, if my colleagues in the nonprofit sector are not investing their funds to develop user-friendly websites that make it easy for people to donate to your cause, we are not going to increase our donors. Websites that are compatible with a person’s smartphone and tablet are essential in reaching out to millennial and other tech-savvy donors. The challenge some nonprofit organizations will have is being able to afford the $65-100,000 price tag that comes with developing a sophisticated website that provides the information people need to read and the opportunity to make a donation with a single click.
The annual income of our respondents ran the gamut between $30,000-$100,000 or more with the 19-24 age group earning less than $50,000 and the 35-38 age group earning more than $100,000 leaving the 25-34 age group somewhere in the middle. When you consider that a family of four on Long Island needs to earn at least $95,000 annually to meet our high cost of living, it does not leave much income left to donate to a charity. However, when we asked the question, “What would you do with $1,000 if you had extra cash,” the responses in order of priority were pay bills; save it; and spend it on something fun. Unless nonprofit charities can offer something fun for millennials to donate to we might not be able to engage their interest. The survey did not ask respondents what they define as fun but, we did ask them to identify the causes they would donate to, and I’ll share that with you in my next column.
Originally published in the HIA-LI Reporter, September, 2019