Non-profits are in trouble, will Gen Z show them the way?

Recently, we inspired the Dutch non-profit sector at a meeting organised by PWC. The future of non-profit organisations is at stake. Most of them are losing donors rapidly. In 2018 the Wereld Natuur Fonds (WNF or WWF) lost 63.000 donors in The Netherlands. What does this mean for their future? How can they prepare for an uncertain future? Which trends do they need to take into account.

Theory of generations
An option is finding predictable values in the behaviour of the customer and donor of tomorrow, compared to yesterday and today. At TrendsActive, we use the theory of generations to get a grip on the changing needs of consumers, allowing us to define strategies for brands on how to stay relevant. By taking a closer look at the youngest generation, Gen Z (born between 1998 and 2015), we can get a good impression of the needs and behaviour of people in the future.

Formative years
If you want to get to know more about a certain generation, you can study its formative years as sociologists have defined it. The formative years is the period in any person’s life – from the age of ten to 25, in which you grow up from a child to a teenager and an adult. In this period, your lense on the world is shaped. Your character is formed, your personality defined and your behaviour decided on. At least a lot of it. Are you a member of Gen X? Your life was influenced by the cold war and youth unemployment. Are you part of Gen Z? Your life is formed by the climate crisis and #metoo.

Transfer of values
There is another interesting thing about the youth and the formative years of generations. Parents tend to transfer their values to their children. They may stick to them or give up on them. What strikes is that the attitude of the generation of babyboomers (born between 1946 and 1964) is completely different from that of generation X (born between 1965 and 1980). The babyboom generation is self confident and proud. Their message to their children – Millennials born between 1981 and 1997 – is: ‘World, get ready for my child’. Gen X is a much more worrying and skeptical generation. The message of the parents that belong to this generation to their children is: ‘Child, get ready for this world’.

Different approaches to charity
So how can non-profits benefit from this? Well to first get an insight on the different wants and needs of generations towards charity. Babyboomers will want their donations to strike their ego. A personal fund is the best they can get. Generation X-ers will rather offer their time as a volunteer than donate money. Some Millennials may cater a vegan event, join a city swim or run for a good cause. But most of them will suffice with a like 😉 And Gen Z? They will ask non-profit organisations for a realistic approach. And they will demand actions instead of fine words. If non-profits strive for social change, they will have to walk their talk and show us their achievements.

What matters most
In fact in means they will have to help the new generation to achieve what matters to them most, personally, locally and globally. In order to do that it is important to take and show your responsibility, to inspire others to take action, to organise it and work together with donors, beneficiaries, partners. A good example is DoSomething.org, a global youth movement for good. The organisation is mobilising young people to become a volunteer for social change to make impact on a cause they care about. At TrendsActive we have helped several non-profits, such as KWF, Longfonds and the Samenwerkende GezondheidsFondsen, to apply insights like these.

Fits the future
So that’s what we do at TrendsActive. We provide new perspectives by applying the human context. By researching the preferences and attitudes of generations we can inform you about our insights on changing consumer behaviour. We can advise you about the implications of the major sociocultural trends for your marketing and brand strategy. And we can create together with you a strategy that fits the future. Want to know how? Contact Hilde Roothart at TrendsActive.

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