When it comes to fundraising, Gen-Z are often ignored because of their lower purchasing power. But it’s well-established that young people are change-makers at heart. 62% of those aged 16-25 believe they have the power to shape the future. And they’re still willing to put their money where their mouth is. ‘While elder generations are leveling out on their giving levels,’ explains Soraya Alexander, COO. of Justgiving, ‘we are just seeing the next generation of donors come into their own’.
It’s no surprise that young people are now twice as likely as any other age group to increase charitable donations next year. Having grown up in a period of global instability - from Brexit to Black Lives Matter - Gen-Z are more willing than ever to invest time and money in making the world a better place.
However, these pivotal events have also seen Gen-Z adopt a decentralised approach to global issues; a skepticism for big organisations and a preference for individual ones. So what does this mean for the charitable sector?
Understanding the Change Maker Spirit
A crucial misstep, in both commercial and Not For Profit initiatives, is the fundamental disconnect with the values of Gen-Z. You might be able to initially capture their attention with flashy graphics and TikToks. But this generation also wears its heart on its sleeve. If brands and charities aren’t willing to offer the same level of transparency and authenticity, their campaign is doomed to fail.
For instance, Gen-Z are more likely to seek a personal connection to the charities they donate to. This often means that grassroots organisations or local issues will capture attention more readily than bigger entities. Nearly half of Gen Z (43%) have given to an individual’s personal cause on GoFundMe or a similar fundraising website in the past year.
We are not advocating for Not For Profits to migrate to these platforms. But they should try to showcase the work they’re doing locally and make the case that it’s relevant to the younger audiences they are appealing to. Social media has made it much easier for young people to find decentralised organisations and highly-specific causes that resonate with their own experiences. This is who larger NPOS are competing with for attention or donations.
The upswing is that, once you have captured Gen Z attention, they are much likelier to remain an advocate for your organisation. Research has shown that 16-25 year olds are over three times more likely than Gen X or Baby Boomers to volunteer for or represent an NPO they feel a connection with. Doing the work to appeal to young people’s interests and concerns clearly pays dividends.
Charities that really understand the Changemaker spirit will be able to harness that same energy for their own benefit.
The Digital Debate
One of the defining characteristics of Gen-Z is that they are the first truly digitally-native generation. Our research shows that 61% of 16-25 year olds spend at least 8 or more hours a day online, most prominently on social media.
Social media is no longer just a tool for chatting with friends or sharing photos. Increasingly, these platforms have become spaces where young people interact with serious issues: debating the big topics, sharing educational information, and engaging with organisations that make a difference. Indeed, younger donors are now much more likely than their older counterparts to donate via their phone on mobile websites or apps.
In order to maximise their impact, charities need to join the online discourse. In particular, this means developing their creative and social listening to produce highly-shareable content. What formats might be able to tell their story in a more captivating way? Could a TikTok video be just as, if not more engaging than a blogpost, for instance?
Statistics show 59% of Gen Z feel closer to brands that make TikTok videos. The NPO ‘Gen-Z for Change’ has truly capitalised on this behaviour. With 1.7m followers, what started as a TikTok account, has now become a national organisation which works to mobilise young people in America.
Within their TikTok strategy, the organisation works with a range of influencers to platform difficult issues about the environment, racial violence, election fraud and more. Gen-Z for change are a great example of how an advanced social media approach can promote a broader philanthropic strategy.
Innovation is Everything
Social media is key because it's the entry point for many would-be donators. However, the way to really capture Gen-Z’s attention is thinking outside the box. In what ways can your organisation transform the conventional methods of fundraising and activism?
A perfect example of such innovative thinking was the Hot Meal Challenge. Developed by Sufra, this initiative successfully mimicked the classic Social Media ‘challenge’ to address food insecurity during the cost-of-living crisis. Young people would download the app, donate a meal to those in need and then challenge three friends to do the same. This pay-it-forward technique built a unique digital ecosystem that spread the word at speed.
As Fabio Richter, the founder of the Hot Meal Challenge, stated, "The success of this initiative is a testament to Gen Z's commitment to social change, harnessed through technology." Richter is right. Gen-Z are well versed in technology and actively want to use it for good - not just letting the tech-billionaires in Silicon Valley benefit.
Simple but effective. Sufra achieved viral attention and talkability by understanding how their audience engage online, and finding a way for them to seamlessly slot in.
There is also no doubt that this generation’s unique values and behaviours have the power to transform the way philanthropy works in the coming years. The change-maker spirit is an energy that charities can and should harness. And as ever with Gen-Z: if you help them, they’ll help you.