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Community Foundation Donor Relationship Strategies and Millennials

Lori Larson Lori Larson

Engaging with younger donors is one of the greatest challenges facing community foundations (well, okay, nonprofits and traditional philanthropy in general). The ability to connect and involve young people with the community foundation directly impacts organizational sustainability. Traditionally community foundations were valued for their unique legal structure and charitable purpose to receive, manage, and invest tax-deductible dollars and alternative assets, such as property, collectible art, or antiques. Now, however, through market changes, technology, innovation, and availability of information, the community foundation’s traditional business model is at risk.

As I wrote in last week’s blog post, GuideStar and the DonorEdge Learning Community enjoyed learning from several experts during the 2013 DonorEdge Learning Community Annual Conference. Engagement with millennials, also referred to as Generation Y (born in early 1980s through 2000), was the topic of one of our expert guest speakers, Derrick Feldmann. Derrick is the CEO of Achieve and co-author of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement. Derrick presented several important differences between millennials and traditional donors:

  • Individuals can now be present without being present.
    • This difference changes how we know if someone is involved.
  • Feedback is faster than ever.
    • This difference changes engagement and social connectivity speed.
  • Charitable giving is happening without institutions, and millennials are foundation agnostic.
    • This difference is the value proposition for community foundations (or other organizations) to demonstrate their value.

Another important distinction about millennials is that they want transparent giving and inviting leadership. Millennials are visual and look for accountability. They want to understand what their donations are buying. For example, if they give $100, how many meals, backpacks, or how much environmental or animal protection does it buy? Essentially, millennials can be thoughtful givers that want to be effective with the dollars they invest. They make their decisions on more than financial ratios and want to understand the difference the nonprofit makes in their work and, in turn, the difference their donation of money or time will make toward positive social change. This difference is important as it aligns with the goal of advancing transparency, enabling better decisions, and encouraging charitable giving to effective nonprofits.

The DonorEdge Learning Community uses GuideStar DonorEdge to change their donor relationship strategies and position their community foundations for sustainability and resilience. DonorEdge is an engaging, social, online environment and visual display for learning and giving to nonprofits and also promote involvement and connectivity. DonorEdge helps position your community foundation as the philanthropic leader of community philanthropy and knowledge.

If you are interested in learning more about millennials’ involvement in social good and causes, the complete study is located at The Millenial Impact.

If you are interested in learning more about DonorEdge or the DonorEdge Learning Community, please contact Lori Larson, senior director GuideStar DonorEdge,

Lori Larson is senior director of GuideStar DonorEdge and is responsible for GuideStar’s market and product strategy for DonorEdge, and growth of and customer relations of the DonorEdge Learning Community. Prior to joining GuideStar, Lori worked for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, leading teams including knowledge development, nonprofit outreach, and donor relations. Previous to her foundation work, Lori was the operations manager of a multi-entity oil and gas corporation in Houston, Texas, and was assistant publisher of a software company in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Lori holds a B.A. in Economics, With Distinction, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an MBA in Finance from Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. Lori holds a Ph.D (ABD) in Leadership and Organizational Change at Walden University. Her dissertation, “Adaptive Business Models for Community Foundation Resilience,” is in progress with expected full doctorate graduation December 2013. You may reach Lori directly at

Topics: Trends