Fundraising professionals – like those in other fields too – need to be constantly aware of their target audiences and their views.

This was brought home to me in a recent article in Fundraising Magazine about young philanthropists. The author, Lynda Harwood-Compton, opened with the view that millennials and Generation Z are “…likely to inherit unprecedented wealth, and as they are less likely than their parents to marry and/or have children, their disposable income is likely to be enormous.”

Not so, responded one millennial businesswoman I contacted who is a rising star in the multinational company where she works. Her comment was:

I think the idea that “their disposable income is likely to be enormous” is rather optimistic for the majority for the following reasons:

  1. Our incomes have not risen in line with the cost of living – exemplified by how much harder it is for millennials to secure mortgages without parental help or being in a dual income relationship
  2. A large proportion of millennials and Gen Z Have to rely on renting, reducing disposable income and/or encouraging greater savings to guard against eviction
  3. Cost of care, especially childcare, has risen enormously
  4. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to be at least partially funding care of our parents/relatives who will be living longer
  5. We will be living longer and will therefore need to save a larger pension and/or work for longer.

She also pointed out that not being married usually means that millennials and Gen Z are either in a long-term relationship (with essentially the same costs of marriage); or single, which is generally costlier (aside from the discount on council tax) – and therefore having less children than previous generations does not necessarily mean that millennials and Gen Z are, or will be, better off.

These comments do not detract from Lynda’s overall message that major donor fundraisers need to engage with millennials and Generation Z differently from the way in which they have been used to communicate with earlier generations. But we do have to be careful about making assumptions as to millennials’ and Generation Z’s wealth as well as their likely levels of generosity.