| 3 min read

How Philanthropy Can Reduce Anxiety

What do Millennials, anxiety, and technology all have in common?

They are everywhere. 

With millennials, who are currently ages 25-40, making up over 50% of the workforce – they are our coworkers, donors, and volunteers. 

The Pew Research Center says that there are 75 million millennials on the planet. These millennials are tech-savvy do-gooders and the largest generation of potential donors. 

Recent data also shows, however, that more than half of these millennials have self-reported having overwhelming anxiety in the last year. 

In my recent podcast episode with Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University – and Author of the books How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, and more recently, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, we talk about stress and anxiety. 

If you listen to this episode you’ll hear that she shares with us that anxiety is an increase in arousal – increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tightness in your chest – when your brain is unsure of what is happening next. 

Uncertainty and ambiguity are the two things that tax nervous systems – which feels like anxiety for most people. Although, Dr. Feldman Barrett shares that there are ways we can transform this uncertainty into determination, awe, and curiosity. 

You know how much I love getting curious about new information, so when I think about this research – I am obviously thinking about how we can reduce anxiety and uncertainty for fundraisers but ALSO for our donors and volunteers – many of whom are millennials. 

You might be thinking, ‘what anxiety could our donor be feeling that we can impact?

There are two things: 

  1. The anxiety and stress they feel around the issue that you are addressing 
  2. The anxiety or stress they feel in the giving process 

Let’s start with #1: The anxiety and stress people feel around the issues that your organization is addressing. 

I say this all the time, when we live every day inside the nonprofit sector, we often take for granted the way that addressing problems eases our anxiety around them. 

But for folks who don’t spend every day addressing the issues around them – they are often filled with click-bait producing anxiety about the state of the world and they often feel helpless to do anything about it. 

That’s where you come in. 

Giving people the opportunity to invest in a solution to a problem they feel anxious about is a gift. You are allowing them to make a difference and address the anxiety they feel about a problem. 

The act of giving releases oxytocin, the hormone that induces feelings of warmth, and connection to others. Oxytocin also helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol – so the more they donate to causes that are important to them, the better they will feel overall. 

And you can continue to address their anxiety by building a multichannel donor relationship platform so they are seeing your messages, work, and their impact across multiple channels. 

This is great for your fundraising too because when we look at donors who engage with us on social media, at in person events, through direct mail, and through our websites we know they donate more often, and for a larger total amount than those who only interact with us through one format. 

Win-win. 

My friends at DonorPerfect have an amazing resource with 4 Strategies to Build Multichannel Donor Relationships that is full of ideas for incorporating technology into your donation process to build this more efficiently and strategically. 

This brings us to #2: how you can address the anxiety and stress donors feel in the giving process. 

This guide from DonorPerfect also addresses how we can use technology to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity in our donation process. 

We have all been there – right? 

We are about to make a donation to something but then something doesn’t look quite right…

Or when that little spinning wheel lasts way too long and we’re worried our donation is lost somewhere in the cloud….

Or when we don’t get a tax receipt so we are wondering if the donation went through at all….

The last thing we want to do is create more anxiety and stress for our donors, so we need to reduce uncertainty at all costs. 

What strategies can we implement to reduce the ambiguity around interacting with donors in all of these formats? A few come to my mind right away, including: 

  • Having consistent branding across all platforms – including on your giving page
  • Having a quick confirmation for donations, purchasing tickets to events, or filling out questionnaires. This includes both a redirect from the donation page to a thank you page, but also an email receipt with a second confirmation. 
  • Interact with your donors consistently, and thank them regularly. 
  • Reduce the barriers to donating – give fewer options, identify which gift amount “most people give” and don’t require too many fields to be filled in to accept their donation. 
  • Ensure that your donation forms are optimised to mobile devices – so donations can be given from their phones. 

Most of us got into the nonprofit sector because we are helpers. Let’s use the knowledge we have to help reduce the anxiety and stress happening in the world by giving people an opportunity to get involved and making the donation process as easy as possible. 

For more helpful resources from our friends at  DonorPerfect, visit www.DonorPerfect.com/Mallory 

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