We recently talked to a major donor in his mid-thirties who wrote a five-figure check to a large nonprofit in 2016. He tried to engage more closely with the organization early in 2017 but was disappointed in his interactions with staff. After offering to give his time and expertise as well as his money, he hadn’t heard a word from the nonprofit for six to nine months—until, that is, he got a generic “please renew your gift” year-end email in December. It was like getting a bill in the mail.

Big donors in their 20s and 30s want more than a monetary transaction; rather, they want to play a meaningful role by giving their time and talent as well as their treasure. They want to be seen as more than an ATM or a last name on an annual giving list.

How can you start building these relationships with next gen donors?

  • Don’t wait. Start now. Building trust takes time.
  • Get creative. Devise ways for rising donors to give their time and talent meaningfully, ways that fulfill donors but also help the organization.
  • Become more transparent than you might find comfortable. Think of your next gen donors as partners in the accomplishments and the challenges, as supporters who can help expand the former and address the latter.
  • Be open to new ideas. Invite next gen donors to explore those ideas with you.
  • Focus more on relationships than transactions. Don’t just wait and send a year-end solicitation without some meaningful interaction with a major donor first—a phone call, at least.

Read more about engaging next-generation donors by Michael Moody and Sharna Goldseker at Nonprofit Quarterly.