$30 000 000 000 000.

That’s how much wealth will be transferred to millennials in the next 30 years. That’s thirty trillion… with twelve zeroes. And yes all those zeroes are going to those TV watching, non-newspaper reading, tattooed folks born between 1980 and 2000. I bring this up as this fact continues to astound me but also so that the next time you, your team and/or board are discussing those pesky millennials and why you should or should not care about them you can just say “thirty trillion”, drop your mic and walk out of the room.

Daniella Foster recently wrote a great article on the Dipolomatic Courier on this transference of wealth titled Millennials Rush In; Social Economy Booms. She also provides three main trends to look for in the coming decade:

1. Financial Disruptors

Not just with the amount of wealth or how they spend it but Foster suggests millennials and their wealth will be disruptive within the financial sector itself. How money is invested. Where it is held. What types of things it funds or does not fund. She says:

Socially conscious, impact-driven Millennial investors will be drawn to alternative forms of finance, such as impact investing and online crowdfunding platforms. They prefer to buy sustainable brands, invest in companies that have social impact, and tap into the wisdom of the crowd to source new investment opportunities.

This is the coming together of the social and economic markets. While Boomers and generations before them have typically had a Chinese wall separating their giving and doing good from their investment and money-making. Millennials see these markets interacting more and more, if not being just one market with social and economic factors, which has huge implications on spending and investing.

2. Design Philanthropy

I love this term Daniella used to describe the creation and innovation desire for millennials to “buck the trend” and do things differently, better, their own way. And this will apply to their giving and philanthropy. We are already seeing organizations like charity: water and Kiva take off and grow like crazy as they have different and disruptive models that tap into this “design philanthropy” type of thinking.

Impact they will pay for; charity, not so much. Millennials will want to see results and be able to demonstrate impact beyond prescribed surveys of outputs.

This is one of the reasons story telling is hugely important for organizations as stories are, and will be, the main conduit to connect donors to their impact and communicate that impact.

3. Helicopter Donors

Closely related to the design philanthropy point, millennial donors are going to want to be much more involved in their giving and causes. Writing checks (or let’s be honest, giving their Credit Card information online…) is not anywhere close to enough for them. They’ll want to get their hands dirty, understand the issues, the solutions, the ideas and be involved in the process.

Millennial philanthropists will gravitate to causes and organizations where they believe they alone can make a valuable contribution, beyond just giving a contribution.

Foster expands on all these points and has some other great insights and opinions on these trends so I would highly recommend reading the full article here.

But what does this mean for charities right now? While the millennial generation doesn’t command the wealth they will have now and many of these shifts are taking place as we speak, the increased focus on impact and involvement can, and should be, started immediately.

Partly because strategically focusing on those two areas can yield immediate benefits (again as charity: water and Kiva among others have shown) but also because it can take some serious shifts in hearts and minds within organizations to be able to communicate impact and welcome true involvement. Organizations have to be much more rigorous in their program delivery and results but also in how they communicate that back to their donors in terms of style, frequency and based on their interest.

And organizations need to be more willing to let go and let people in. Maybe that crazy idea by the volunteer will work. Maybe that person raising money for you using the wrong logo isn’t the end of the world. Maybe your donor is right and your board members are wrong.

If nothing else, hopefully the ALS Ice Bucket challenge has shown how incredibly powerful some uncontrolled, imperfect fundraising chaos can be. Organizations that can not only embrace this but empower it are the ones who will succeed.


Millennials will relatively soon command more wealth than any generation we’ve ever seen and they will be looking to use it in very different ways. Make sure you and your organization are taking them seriously and starting to take some steps to involve them in your work and demonstrate your impact today.