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Learn more about how millennials and philanthropy work together in our Q&A guide.

Millennials and Philanthropy: Inspire Them Into Action

Over the past few decades, pop culture has been hyper-focused on understanding millennials, what drives them, and how to tap into the millennial marketplace.

As much as this is true in the consumer world, it is just as relevant for nonprofit organizations like yours.

Although millennials are still seen as an emerging generation of young people, that perception is quickly becoming outdated. The oldest millennials are in their late 30s and the youngest are fresh out of college, meaning this generation is already well into adulthood.

Millennials hold so much cultural, political, and economic capital that your philanthropic organization should start thinking of ways to channel their giving potential into fundraising success for your cause.

What motivates millennials to donate to a cause?

Understanding what motivates millennials to donate money to causes is one of the most common challenges faced by those in the nonprofit world (as well as those outside of it).

Millennials have faced both economic turmoil and upturns in the market that gives them a unique perspective on deciding which goods and services are worth their money.

This means that if your nonprofit organization is looking to get more millennials involved in fundraising for your mission, you need to frame your case for support carefully.

Because millennials aren’t eager to spend their money on just any cause that excites them, you need to ensure your plea for support underscores the urgency of your work.

This urgency might be driven by:

  • Time limitations (“Donate within the next hour and we’ll be able to feed 15 children for a year…”).
  • Circumstances surrounding your cause (“Without your contribution, hurricane victims will go without power…”).

By always confronting millennial donors with the impact their support can make, your team can drive home how crucial their contributions will be to achieving your mission.

Although millennials are inspired by a diverse range of causes, this generation shares a penchant for knowing how their contributions make a demonstrable difference in the world.

This doesn’t need to impact the work your organization does. After all, charities across all generations have done meaningful, life-changing work for their beneficiaries. However, this can impact the way you frame calls to action and make the case for millennial giving.

What do millennials look for when they’re choosing causes to support?

Since the millennial generation spans a period of around 15 years, there’s a huge amount of diversity in thought among members of this impactful cohort.

For example, although millennials tend to be more politically liberal than their parents’ generation, there’s still a wide range of diverse political thought among this population.

Similarly, there’s significant variance among millennials in religious beliefs, attitudes toward gender roles, and educational levels. This means that although the media likes to generalize about these individuals, millennials are moved by a vast array of philanthropic causes and missions.

However, that doesn’t mean that your nonprofit has to generalize about your cause in order to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. In fact, millennial givers tend to respond better when charitable causes make their mission as transparent as possible.

While there’s a wide range of beliefs and priorities among millennials, one common trait in this generation is that individuals hold their personal beliefs very strongly.

If your nonprofit makes it clear what your mission is, why it’s important, and how millennial givers can help out, you’re sure to find an active community of donors to get involved.

Similarly, millennials respond well to nonprofits that make getting involved a social activity. While there’s a misconception that millennials are the “Me Generation,” what’s actually true is that these individuals are highly motivated by social opportunities that help them connect with their friends and family.

Think of the popularity of social media sites and the narrowing gap between public and private life. Millennials want to get involved with causes that let them interact with their peers in the process, either virtually or in person.

Millennial giving trends

If your charitable organization is interested in improving your millennial giving rates, you’re likely looking to learn about the different methods of giving that millennials favor.

In the past few years, there have been many advancements in millennial giving trends, including innovations in online giving methods. Above all, millennials prefer to give online more than writing a check or making an in-person cash donation.

If you’ve been watching trends in millennial consumer behavior, this isn’t a surprise. However, while many nonprofit organizations think of online giving as just another way to make a gift, millennials are increasingly being drawn to new and creative online giving styles.

Take a look at some of these popular online giving methods among millennial donors:

  • Product fundraising. With this method, individuals or charitable organizations design fundraising products (like posters, stickers, t-shirts, etc.) and then sell them as a way to raise money.
  • Mobile giving. This describes a wide range of giving methods that facilitate donating over the phone. Since millennials are by-and-large a tech-savvy generation, they love mobile giving via their smartphones.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. With peer-to-peer fundraising, individuals set up personal fundraising pages to raise money for their favorite causes. Then, they call on their friends and family to donate through these pages.

Why do millennials prefer these giving methods? With each method, you see the convenience of online fundraising paired with elements of social engagement, mission-forward marketing, and tech-friendly methodology.

Our recommendation? Try t-shirt fundraising for your next campaign. T-shirt fundraising is a variation of online giving that can be leveraged by mobile users and used for peer-to-peer fundraising, while still offering millennial givers a convenient and creative way to give back.

How does t-shirt fundraising work?

T-shirt fundraising is an online product fundraising method. In these campaigns, individuals or nonprofit organizations can design, market, and sell custom apparel products including t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, etc.

Millennials love t-shirt fundraising not only because it’s a dynamic and convenient way for these tech-savvy donors to show support for causes they care about, but also because t-shirt fundraising offers individuals a way to “give back” while also getting something in return.

Earlier, we touched on the economic concerns of the millennial generation. Millennials tend to be very careful with how they spend money, and often this leads them to be a little wary of making traditional donations to charitable causes.

However, because t-shirt fundraising campaigns give donors something in return for their gift, millennial givers find this fundraising method more attractive than traditional giving models.

Think t-shirt fundraising is right for your cause? Here’s how this method works:

  1. Partner with a t-shirt fundraising website like Bonfire. You’ll create a unique design for your apparel, set price points for your items, and create your online storefront.
  2. Share your fundraising page with your supporters. You’ll want as many people as possible to visit your page, so ask donors to share the link with friends and family after they’ve contributed.
  3. Track your fundraising progress. As individuals give to your cause, you’ll see your profit margins increase and more money go back to funding your mission.

With a t-shirt fundraising platform like Bonfire, you only pay once your campaign starts making a profit. This means it’s free to launch a fundraising page and that you’ll never pay out of pocket for the fundraising products you design.

How can t-shirt fundraisers be amplified for millennials?

If your nonprofit organization wants to increase your millennial fundraising revenue, we highly recommend t-shirt fundraising.

T-shirt fundraising is an effective fundraising strategy because there are many ways you can enhance and tailor your campaign it to your millennial supporters.

Some of the most effective ways you can tap into your millennial supporter base through t-shirt fundraising include:

  • Pairing P2P and t-shirt fundraising. Ask your millennial supporters to start personal fundraising pages on behalf of your cause. They can design their own t-shirt art to sell, or your nonprofit can offer up your own designs for them to sell.
  • Creating unique t-shirt designs. A great way to attract millennial supporters to your t-shirt fundraising page is to design unique t-shirt art that brings attention to your cause. Hire a graphic designer or get a talented member of your staff to take on this project.
  • Designing event-driven fundraising t-shirts. Since millennials are motivated by social engagement, one way to inspire them to participate in your t-shirt fundraisers is to sell event-driven designs commemorating holidays, news stories, or even fundraising events like walkathons.

Above all, millennial donors love variety. Since t-shirt fundraising is so flexible, your team can pair it with virtually any other fundraising strategy to make a memorable, impactful fundraiser that your millennial donors will love to support.


Inspiring your millennial supporters to take action on behalf of your cause doesn’t have to be a mystery. Now that we’ve reviewed what drives millennial givers and why t-shirt fundraising is the perfect millennial fundraising strategy, your team is ready to get out there and raise more money.