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Engaging Younger Supporters

A while back I wrote a post about engaging boomer volunteers, offering some tips on attracting and retaining this keen group - many of whom are at or reaching retirement age. But there is another generational group on which non-profits and membership associations also need to focus their attention:  Millennials. This is the term that was coined for those born between 1981 and 2000.

Millennials are the largest generation in American history

In terms of sheer size, Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers and are now the largest generation in American history – estimated at 83 million strong. And according to a recent blog post, The Future of Fundraising: What a Difference Five Years will Make, even though the oldest Millennial is only now reaching 30, you need to start building relationships with this group, since they will be prime donors, supporters and volunteers in about five years.

Are Millennials actively involved in your organization?

 I’m wondering:

  • Does your organization have any Millennials on your Board?
  • Have you been successful in recruiting Millennials as active volunteers?
  • Do you know how many of your donors are Millennials?

Getting to know Millennials

Back in May, we ran a post about the Millennial Donors Report by Achieve and JGA , noting that this generation is “diverse, human and ready to give.” This group differs from the older crowd by being highly “technologically plugged-in – finding their information through web searches and social media. But even at this young age, Millennials are already giving to organizations where they’ve developed “personal connections or trust” and volunteering when asked.

Jeff Hurt also blogged about Millennials in early June. In his post he noted three critical findings from The Monitor Institute study: Disruption: Evolving Models of Engagement and Support: A National Study of Member-Based Advocacy Organization. The three critical findings he noted were:

  1. The benefits of traditional membership are not adequate to engage Millennials.
  2. Millennials participation is more sporadic and activity or event based.
  3. Traditional nonprofit methods do not inspire Millennials to give.

In June, there was a Millennial Donor Summit “to build a pool of knowledge for Millennial engagement.” In a June post, Beth Kanter offered up her “big picture takeaways” from participating in the Millennial Summit – which I’ve condensed:

  • One big myth is that Millennials don’t trust nonprofit institutions and that isn’t true … Millennials want to be hands on with nonprofits, get inside and effect change … they want nonprofits to be efficient, useful, and engaging.   Yet, both within and on the outside, Millennials with great ideas and passion are often met with coldwater statements from their managers like  “That is not the way we do things here.”
  • Millennials have the potential to bring a lot of value in leadership to nonprofits from within.  They get emerging media and are ready to teach … they have collaboration and networking skills that are in their DNA.
  • If nonprofits want to understand Millennials, they need to talk to them, put them on their board.  

What are the next steps for non-profits and associations in engaging Millennials?

Here is what some non-profit bloggers advise:

  • Jeff Hurt (Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections) suggests the next steps are that “associations need to accelerate the transition to online and new media by coordinating across silos in marketing, fundraising, member engagement and media relations.” 
  • Richard DeVeau (Fundraising Success) suggests, “the first and most obvious answer is you better get started building relationships with millennials. And I mean right away. Today. But forget trying to do so through direct mail. While a recent survey indicates that of all donors, across all age groups, 61 percent have stated a preference for online giving, 89 percent of millennials state this preference. …Millennials and technology are synonymous. It’s how they relate to the world and each other. So it’s how they are going to relate to your organization, too."
  • Courtney Collins (Event 360) reminds us that “as the first generation to have volunteerism as a school requirement, we get the idea of giving back to our communities. Before we do this, we first need your organization to find a way to grab and hold our attention. … The most effective way to reach Millennial donors is with a blend of technology and something truly time-honored: trust."
  • Beth Kanter (Beth’s Blog ) concludes her post by proposing “that nonprofits have the opportunity to put fire in the bellies of their programs by engaging Millennials from the inside and out with their programs. “ 

How is your organization embracing, recruiting and involving Millennials?  Have you changed your member or volunteer management strategies? Let us know in the comments below.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Monday, 01 August 2011 at 9:00 AM

Comments

  • Trina IsaksonTrina Isakson

    Trina Isakson said:

    Hi Lori,

    I think one of the biggest shifts organizations will need to make is to work horizontally within their organizations. Fund development, volunteer engagement, and marketing people will have to work together to create a coordinated effort to engage Millennials. Millennials don't define their involvement with an organization by department, so organizations will have to develop ways to engage with their supporters more holistically.

    Monday, 01 August 2011 at 3:52 PM
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Trina: I agree and as Beth Kanter noted, Millennials have "collaboration in their DNA" so a more holistic approach is needed.

    Monday, 01 August 2011 at 5:08 PM
  • Brett HenleyBrett Henley

    Brett Henley said:

    Lori,

    This statement is absolute:

    " they want nonprofits to be efficient, useful, and engaging.   Yet, both within and on the outside, Millennials with great ideas and passion are often met with coldwater statements from their managers like  “That is not the way we do things here.”

    You've described my thought process to the T. Would love to utilize my passion for people and wide spectrum of experience to help nonprofits/social causes break through their own disconnect and engage a younger generation, hungry to help.

    But how to overcome stagnation and resistance to shifting ideals?

    Let me put it bluntly - We have ideas - but not enough in the ranks of nonprofits who are listening.

    Tuesday, 02 August 2011 at 9:43 AM
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Brett:  Thanks for sharing your comment and your frustration.  However, I do think that the change will occur - perhaps more slowly in some of the larger organizations - and organizations will find ways of embracing Millennials and harnessing your passion and goodwill.

    Tuesday, 02 August 2011 at 1:03 PM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.
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