The Millennial Woman’s Guide to Better Giving

Useful tips for a social, experimental generation of women who put giving front and center.

When it comes to giving, you lead with your hearts, ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice and inspire others to join in by sharing on social media. That’s the encouraging theme from a new study by Fidelity Charitable, 2017 Women and Giving, based on a survey of more than 1,700 women.

You’re social and experimental, putting giving front and center. Open-minded Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to crowdfund, give to a workplace fundraiser, buy from socially responsible companies or give money directly to a person in need. Seventy-five percent of you told us that your giving decisions are motivated by empathy—but you also want the facts. Sixty-one percent reported researching charities through websites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator before giving.

But at the same time, you’re reporting lower levels of satisfaction with your giving than women from the Boomer generation.

We can help. Put the tips in this guide to work and we’re sure you’ll find giving to be even more fulfilling. And you’ll make a greater impact, no matter what causes you care about or how much you have to give.

Focus your giving for greater impact

Your generation is really passionate about making a difference—and there are all sorts of organizations you care about. In fact, 55 percent of you support a wide variety of causes. But you may be diluting your impact by giving to too many charities. We know how easily we can hit diminishing returns when we divide our time and attention in too many ways at home or at work. The same is true for giving. Time for a fix!

Take it to the next level:

Decide what’s really important to you—and put it in writing. Maybe you’re like many of your Millennial peers, who say the most important issues we need to solve are hunger and access to nutritious food (41 percent), access to basic health services (33 percent) and protecting the environment (31 percent). Or maybe you care more about something else. The most important thing you can do is to take the time to decide what you care most about—and then direct most of your giving to that.

Yes, you’ll still want to support your friends running in that charitable benefit race, and you’ll still want to contribute to the office holiday fundraiser. It’s fine to reserve 20 percent to 30 percent of the amount you plan to give to support the kinds of things that just come up. But save the bulk of your giving for what you really care about. It may help keep you honest if you take some time to put your giving priorities in writing by creating a mission statement capturing how you want to do good in the world. Our charitable mission statement worksheet can help.

Discover what is really needed. Another move toward effective giving sounds so simple, but few donors take the time: Ask nonprofits what they really need. If you’re interested in a tiger rescue, for example, it might sound exciting to donate money earmarked for a new habitat, but what if the organization desperately needs a new IT system to better connect with volunteers and track expenses? Giving a general gift that the nonprofit can direct wherever it is most needed or one that is specifically targeted to match the nonprofit’s wish list will be the most useful.

Harness your social savvy for good

Hands typing on smart phones

You’re naturals at social media and there’s no doubt that your online advocacy is helping the causes you care about. And these aren’t just #humblebrags. Fifty-one percent of Millennial women say you encourage others to donate to the charities you do, posting success stories that inspire friends, family and—thanks to labyrinths like Instagram and Facebook—countless potential new donors.

And that’s not the end of it. Seventy-one percent said you’re often motivated to give in the moment, which means that every time you upload a photo or article about a charity you’re involved with online, you’re inspiring like-minded friends who may give a donation on the spot.

Take it to the next level:

Join a giving circle or recruit friends or family members to form your own. Here’s how Giving Circles work: Everyone contributes her or his own money, which is pooled together. Then, as a group, you decide how to give the funds on an ongoing basis. You may be able to find and join an established giving circle—or you can start your own with friends and family. Arrange regular meetings or simply organize the details through email or a Facebook group. It makes giving social, fun and, with more than one person involved, gives you the chance to make a much more sizeable contribution to a charity than possible individually.

Amp up your social advocacy. Whether you’re acting on your own or with a group, you can dial up your social advocacy with two more easy moves. Think like a publicist by always mentioning the charity’s full name and include a link where others can help out. You never know where the next major donor will come from, and it might just be your very own feed.

Follow the pros. Feel compelled to fight for a cause but not sure where to start? Many advocacy organizations will include primers with up-to-date information and templates for email, Instagram, and more.

Make giving a priority with your partner

You’re also awesome at giving as a couple—and philanthropy appears to be good for your relationship. Not only do 71 percent of Millennial women say you discussed giving decisions with your spouse or partner, but 46 percent use these talks as a way of deepening your relationship. This is a sign of just how engaged your generation is in giving.

Take it to the next level:

Turn your vision into a plan. You’re already talking about giving, which is great. But most couples don’t take the step of committing to each other how much you want to set aside for charity and what you most want to do with it. So why not also agree on a joint mission statement and create a budget for donating to charity? A slightly more formal plan will help you prioritize making an impact as a couple.

Give a gift of giving. Whether it’s a special donation for a spouse’s birthday or spending time volunteering together on your anniversary, there’s something really intimate about working as a team toward making the world a better place.

Make your giving budget work harder for you

Most Millennial women (63 percent) want to give more but feel torn between giving money to charitable causes and keeping it for personal needs. That’s not surprising when you are still in the first sprint of your career, plus juggling all the many other financial and life priorities you have on your plate. But even if you feel like your resources are limited, there are lots of ways to stretch your budget and make it work harder for you.

Take it to the next level:

Put your giving on autopilot. Most people don’t have a formal giving budget at all—so if you take a few minutes to ask yourself how much you want to set aside for giving, you’ll already be ahead of the pack. Then, figure out how much that translates into on a weekly or monthly basis, and make sure you’re setting those funds aside each month so you meet your targets.

You can certainly do this by automatically transferring the amount from a checking account to a savings account. But you can also set up automatic, recurring donations through many organizations’ websites, or a donor-advised fund like the Giving Account where you can organize all of your giving (to multiple nonprofits) through one account.

Give your donation history a once-over. Take a look at all the donations you made last year. Which organizations did you give to and how much to each? How much did you give in total? Then ask yourself if those numbers match up with your giving priorities. If not, make some changes. You’ll be able to give more to the organizations you care most about—and have a greater impact—if you’re giving less to the ones that are less important to you.

Think longterm. Remember that small amounts add up over time, and so does the impact. Keep track of what you give over time, and you’ll be better able to see the significance of what you’re doing. If you’re pulled toward a particular nonprofit, you should also consider committing to support them with a multi-year gift, which can help you break up a larger donation into affordable installments. A donor-advised fund is also a great method for putting aside funds, having them invested for potential (and tax-free) growth, and building those funds into a larger gift with time.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of tax incentives. The charitable tax deduction is designed to help people give more. If you itemize on your deductions, be sure you’re itemizing your charitable contributions—our basic guide to charitable tax deductions can help answer your questions. In addition, if you have a non-retirement investment account, you may want to consider donating stock that has appreciated for more than a year instead of cash. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you work with an accountant or financial advisor, let them know that giving is a priority and ask for their tips and assistance in helping you build it into your plans.

Ready to make a major mark on the causes you care most about? Stop writing checks here and there and start getting strategic

Our four-step guide can move you toward the kind of rich and fulfilling giving experience you’ve always wanted.

How Fidelity Charitable can help

Since 1991, we have been a leader in charitable planning and giving solutions, helping donors like you support their favorite charities in smart ways.

Or call us at 800-262-6039