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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Generation Z: Changing the face of philanthropy

gen z philanthropy

Are you struggling with thoughts of existential dread when it comes to thinking about how to engage this next wave of donors? Are you pained in thinking how do I even talk to these young whippersnappers? Well, worry no more. Here is your guide to engaging with this generation… no cap (Gen Z for "no lies")!

We have traditionally thought of fundraising through the lens of older more established donors often in the silent and baby boomer generations. They have been our major donor cornerstone for years, but as these generations start to dwindle, it is time to set our sights on the next wave of change makers.

Enter Generation Z! Born between 1997 and 2012, this generation is a force to be reckoned with! They not only think that social justice and giving back is fire (cool) they are driven by a deep sense of purpose to reshape the world to make it a more fair and equitable place for all. 
But you might be thinking, Elizabeth, I understand that, but what do I need to do? My friend, the answer is easier than you think. They are looking for gala’s and black tie affairs, they are looking to be a part of something that is hands-on, drives impact, and offers them transparency.

Engage this

Smartphone in hand, you have a direct line to them. You just have to show them your organization has the riz (charisma)! This perpetual stream of communication that is on them at all times is your ticket to speaking their language! No it’s not the silly slang I have been adding throughout, although that wouldn’t hurt, they are looking for bite-size information that is visually appealing to them and it shows the ‘why’ behind your organization. They are looking to find an organization that shares their same values. So make content and videos that is thumb-stoppingly interesting to grab their attention.

Guess what!? They are not all about the dollars– they crave authenticity and transparency! Show them that impact, the numbers, the tangible difference that their financial contributions make to support. They want to share their experience with you on social media and become mini influencers on your behalf! Make them STAN for you (become the ultimate fan).

Woke or Change Agent?

It’s not all about the money for them. It is truly about empowering them to lead, to break the systems, and create a just society! Organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma society have created a fundraising competition (Student Visionary of the Year)  for high schoolers that engage them in leadership development and networking that shows them the real impact of their work! Last year the top fundraiser in the country raised over $1,000,000 alone! This is because they were engaged in something bigger than themselves and they were given the tools and resources to guide them for success.

Corporations are on board too! Gen Z is in the workforce too and they aren’t just a bunch of pencil pushers, no no, they are social entrepreneurs that are choosing companies to work for that have shared values and support causes they care about. Companies are realizing that social impact matters to them and are finding ways to create employee engagement through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Partner up with them and get in front of these employees and share the impact they can make by supporting your nonprofit. Create a young professionals network that engages them in fundraising, leadership development, and mentoring.

So what can I do?

Buckle up. Here is the path… it is right in front of you. Harness that passion for change and create a movement for philanthropy that is tailored to Generation Z. Use short, concise, and visual communication is attention grabbing. Engage with Gen Z and foster true connection with them. Involve them in deeper conversations. Share their impact, those stats, and by authentically you! Be mission driven and communicate that to them.

Here is to hitting different (being special) and creating thumbstopping content, authentic relationships, and creating change makers… one Gen Z at a time! 

Elizabeth Matthews is a 2023 graduate of the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership and Management
program at Arizona State University and a long time development professional. Currently she is working at a nonprofit organization in San Jose, CA that seeks to end poverty and focuses on racial injustice. She is a masters student (Fall 2023) of the ASU Masters Nonprofit Leadership and Management program.

Image by Lillian Finley

Interested in having an emerging leader in your organization? Host a Public Ally!

Do you have a project that you would love to implement, but lack the staff capacity or other resources?  We help our partners increase their capacity to achieve their mission by matching them with diverse, talented individuals from the community.

Public Allies Arizona places these emerging leaders in full-time service to nonprofits in Phoenix and Tucson communities. These nonprofits, called Partner Organizations, are chosen based on their ability to provide the Ally with significant work experience, as well as their need for an innovative young leader who can help them take on a project they otherwise could not afford or infuse energy into an existing project.

Elizabeth Matthews


ASU Lodestar Center Blog