The Impact of Millennials in Nonprofits
For those of us in the nonprofit sector, adding, or simply replacing, supporters to the organization is not only laborious, but essential to an organization’s survival. And it’s not just for the money either. Even if your organization is endowed and in no real need to fundraise, keeping people interested in “the cause” may be even more important than getting the bills paid. So, where is the current stream of potential big supporters coming from these days? Most likely, it’s from the “Millennial” generation. (These are the folks born, roughly, between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.) However, a lot has changed in social marketing approaches since the previous generations—the “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X” blocks—primarily in style and context, but also as the means of delivering that message.
When the early Millennials were just being born, the tools of the nonprofit professional were mostly direct mail, flyers, telephones and, perhaps, fax. Now we have websites, smartphones, mobile apps, social media venues, virtual forums, e-letters, and so much more. And back then, organization loyalty often trumped the cause or issue itself when it came to one’s decision to involve themselves–making frequent communications with the supporter less imperative.
Obviously, everything has changed—from the tools we use to disseminate our message and its frequency to the message itself–as well as the terms of their personal involvement.
To understand how the Millennials are interacting with today’s nonprofit world, we need to look no further than the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, which is a partner of The Case Foundation. It’s a pretty big read, unless you choose the Executive Summary, but here’s the gist of it.
In a nutshell (or as the report coined it, “the top takeaway”), the report concluded that: Millennials first support causes (rather than institutions themselves) they are passionate about, so it’s up to organizations to inspire them and show them that their support can make a tangible difference on the wider issue. Which begged the question: How can we get this generation fully immerse in the cause, and maximize the impact of their interest, time, and giving?
When it comes to “connecting” with Millennials, consider this:
- They prefer to share info about the cause instead of the organization itself. (It’s the product, not the brand.)
- Articles with action-oriented headlines trump traditional ones.
- They are less likely to revisit the organization’s website than they are to respond to e-letters and emails (such as MailChimp or Constant Contact), which should be smartphone friendly. However, they do come to the website for the core information—as their main reference point to the organization and cause.
- Organizations need to focus more on mobile applications.
- The more the organization can inspire sharing, the better chance they have of capturing Millennials’ passion about their cause. (Think share buttons and social media streams.)
As for “involvement,” keep in mind that:
- This generation wants to know upfront what their time will achieve.
- Millennials view volunteer opportunities as a way to socially connect with like-minded peers—beyond the technology (meaning, in-person action).
- The training of volunteers no longer needs to be in-person. Online training along with forums are making it easier for people to be trained and oriented—regardless of physical location.
- 72% of Millennials tend to involve themselves for networking and gaining professional expertise.
When it comes to “giving,” keep in mind that:
- Donor benefits are important. Special event fundraisers, where one may get treated to a night out as part of their donation, may be more important than ever. (Public radio and television have been doing well by giving “member gifts” to their donors, such as: tickets, CDs, DVDs, dinners and more.) Also, networking opportunities and the opportunity to enhance their skill sets.
- Millennials may not give a lot, but they do give what they can.
- Moreover, 52% said they’d be interested in monthly sustainerships.
- And, Millennials showed significant interest in using their personal network to fundraise on behalf of the organization—be it sharing in Facebook or other social media outlets, personal emails, or through other means of technology.
The takeaway from this report is that the more Millennials are personally invested in a cause—the program, service or issue—and when they can share their interest in the cause with others and receive something tangible in return, they are more likely to give more and more often, while reaching out to their personal network via Internet and mobile technology.