Gen Z – who are they? And what do they want from charities?

Amy Nield By Amy Nield

According to the Pew Research Center, Generation Z is a name given to people born roughly between the years of 1997-2012, the oldest of whom are just entering adulthood, and the youngest are in their first years of school. As with any type of generational research, there are cultural differences that mean attitudes and experiences will vary across the globe. As a UK-based agency, we’ve taken research that generally has a Western view or focus.

Generation Z will change the world. That’s what the research says, anyway.

They’re ethically minded, and more concerned about their impact on the planet than any generation that’s gone before them.

But, while they’re supporting the causes that matter to them in non-financial ways (protesting, petitioning, and volunteering), the signs are that this generation of ‘philanthroteens’ isn’t all that interested in fundraising.

The 2019 CAF report noted a significant decrease in ‘from time to time’ giving across the 16-24 age group (from 51% to 45%), and found that this demographic’s also more likely than ever before to give rarely or never.

The relationships Generation Z form with charities and non-profits now contain the seeds of the sector’s future. And unless fundraising starts to feature, that’s worrying news.

We’ve identified three ways that charities can engage with Generation Z, and find a place for them in their future fundraising strategies.

1. Make fundraising an aspect of activism

A childhood impacted by the world financial crisis, a seismic cultural shift in self-expression, and the urgent threat of climate change.

Because they’re never known society to stay still, Gen Z expects the same of the movements that aim to make it better. They want action, and they want it now. And rather than taking a back seat, they want to feel part of the solution.

By laying out their values clearly, charities can make themselves relevant to this conversation. And by providing tools and support to empower Gen Z’s activism, they can start to generate the warmth that fuels lasting relationships.

But it can’t end there. We need to accept that the frictionless passivity of so much recent fundraising innovation (think contactless payments or rounding up apps) might not have all the answers.

Instead, we need to tap into the emotional connection that binds people to causes – and create positive friction to make giving feel like a conscious act, and important aspect of activism.

2. Combat content fatigue

Generation Z can’t remember a world that wasn’t permanently connected. They’re the first true digital natives.

That has its benefits (keep reading…), but it also means content fatigue is setting in at a much younger age.

They’re a highly critical audience, with short attention spans and finely-honed bullshit detectors. They expect brands to be transparent in everything they do.

So communications need to get to the point. And they need to be upfront about what they’re asking for – and how it will help.

3. Leverage their new networks

We’ve all heard that Gen Z goes out less, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less social. On the contrary, they have wider social spheres that are centred online, through social networks which, by their very nature, cross locations, and even cultures.

And they’re starting to show that they can mobilise their networks in support of a cause.

Earlier this year, a Twitch streamer went viral as he raised over £250,000 in 48 hours for transgender youth charity Mermaids, spurred on by featured celebrities and politicians and keeping people engaged.

And in a society hit by austerity measures, more people are now fundraising to cover access to medical treatment, education, or to support themselves with day-to-day living. Peer-to-peer fundraising gives people the chance to have tangible impact – while engaging with compelling personal stories. 

We can’t know for certain but fundraising for these personal causes might be taking up a share of donations that might otherwise be going to charities. We need to learn from the successes of these digital networks, not be intimidated by them. 

It’s a massive opportunity. Generation Z wants to change the world – and charities are in a position to help them. But, with changes coming thick and fast, we need to start talking to them now, or risk being left behind.

Amy Nield

Amy Nield


A pin sharp planner with a passion for people, Amy is a digital strategy expert with a range of big brand experience. She was named one of Campaign’s Faces to Watch in 2017 for her work with Digitas’s LGBT+ network and is fascinated by communities and conversation – we reckon you’ll enjoy chatting with her.