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How Millennials are Like School Bullies – And Why You Can’t Ignore Them

Lori Halley 07 August 2013 2 comments

Millennials may soon be taking over the playground. This generation of “digital natives” are now the largest generation in American history, currently estimated at 83 million strong. So while you may be tired of hearing about Millennials, these 20-35 year old's cannot be ignored.

After all, they are the young members that associations and clubs are trying to attract. They are the young donors and supporters with whom non-profits want to build long-term relationships. The bottom line is that they will be the donors, volunteers and leaders of your organizations in the very near future.

Is this generation really any different? 

So what’s all the fuss about? We all know that Millennials are “digital natives” who have been raised online and whose communications and relationships are dependent on social media and technology, such as smartphones.  But does this generation really have different values, beliefs or a different world view than Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers?

This is a fundamental question and one that intrigues me on a personal level. When I began working in the non-profit sector, I was in my mid-twenties and like today's Millennials, I was surrounded by an older generation of board members and volunteers. Now the tables have turned and I’m a “Boomer” working alongside many co-workers who are Millennials. So I was eager to find out what insight the recently published 2013 Millennial Impact Report might offer.

2013 Millennial Impact Report

Recently, Achieve and its research partner, the Case Foundation published their fourth consecutive Millennial Impact Report. This year’s research was “based on a survey with responses from 2,665 individuals.”  Their findings are taken from “information from an online survey distributed to Millennials through 14 research partners, as well as conducted usability testing of nine nonprofits’ online presence [website, social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), emails, and mobile]. For this study, Millennials were defined as anyone born between the years 1979-1994.”

If you want to go through the detailed research findings, you can download the 2013 Millennial Impact Report here: http://www.themillennialimpact.com/2013research.

Here are some of the trends that I’ve excerpted from the Report which outline how Millennials Connect, Involve and Give.  These might offer some fresh insight for non-profits and membership organizations hoping to gain and maintain support from the Millennial generation.  My personal take on these findings, however, is that many of traits the report attributes to Millennials might mirror the majority of your current members and supporters with a few key exceptions.


  • Millennials prefer to connect via technology. They use websites and search engines primarily for information-gathering, finding volunteer opportunities, and donating online. 
  • Millennials share in micro ways. Their interactions with nonprofit organizations are likely to be immediate and impulsive. When inspired, they will act quickly in a number of ways, from small donations to short volunteer stints.
  • Millennials facilitate (and rely on) peer influence. Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, participate in programs, and give. 
  • Millennials volunteer along a continuum of support. Millennials are most likely to get hands-on with causes they care about when organizations offer a range of volunteer opportunities, from one-time commitments to long-term, pro-bono skills-based opportunities. 
  • Millennials give to have an impact. Millennials are consistent in their desire to see how dollars translate into people helped. They want their contributions, no matter the type or amount, to help achieve tangible results for a cause.


“72% of Millennials are interested in participating in a nonprofit young professional group.” Millennials' Top Three Motivations for Getting Involved:
    1. Passion - 79%
    2. Meet People - 56%
    3. Expertise - 46%
  • Millennials view volunteer opportunities as a way to socially connect with like-minded peers, which moves them beyond technology (social networking) to in-person action. 
  • ...volunteer programs that facilitate networking for Millennials maximize this generation’s inherent social connectedness
  • ... offering online training in place of in-person training is attractive to Millennials, with the added benefit of allowing participants to train and serve anywhere.
  • This generation also wants to know upfront what their time will achieve, so sharing positive, direct results signals to Millennials that you value and respect their time.


  • ... donation requests that focus on how the gift will benefit the recipients will garner higher response. What’s more, fundraising on Millennials’ preferred channels (websites and email as opposed to telemarketing) significantly increases chances for conversion.
  • While Millennials don’t give a lot, they do want to give what they have. ...52% of respondents said they’d be interested in monthly giving.
  • Millennials showed significant interest in using their network—family and friends—to fundraise on behalf of causes they were passionate about. ...
  • ... Millennials are starting to ask for donations in lieu of gifts for birthdays and other events. 

Closing the generational divide

Do the trends outlined above from the 2013 Millennial Impact Report ring true for your organization?  I’m guessing that your current members, volunteers and supporters likely also “volunteer along a continuum of support”; “give to have impact”; and “volunteer as a way to socially connect”. But to attract and engage Millennials, have you been focusing on:

  • Making sure members and supporters can connect via technology?
  • Offering virtual or micro-volunteering or training opportunities?
  • Demonstrating the impact of volunteers’ or supporters’ donations or time?
  • Enabling new ways for members, supporters and donors to connect socially with “like-minded peers”?

Leveling the playing field - next steps for non-profits and membership organizations

Not only are Millennials a force that is not to be ignored (like the schoolyard bully), but many organizations are actively trying to attract more younger members, supporters or donors. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report does a great job of describing what Millennials are looking for and explaining “What ...all the connecting, involving, and giving add up to when it comes to truly engaging Millennials?” 

One of the key takeaways has to be that Millennials support causes they are passionate about (rather than institutions), so it’s up to organizations to inspire them and show them that their support can make a tangible difference. As the Report suggests, “the question for nonprofits becomes then: How can we fully invest in this generation, immerse them in the cause, and maximize the impact of their interest, time, and giving?”

What is your non-profit or membership organization doing to ensure you reach out to, welcome and engage the Millennial generation?  Let us know in the comments below.

Did you like the title of this post?

Full disclosure and credit – I used Portent’s “Content idea generator” to create the first part of my headline.

Want more on Millennials?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 07 August 2013 at 8:30 AM


  • Joanne Fritz said:

    Wednesday, 07 August 2013 at 11:24 AM
    Great summary, Lori, and I love the headline. That headline generator you mention is a great find! I'm going to try it out.
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 07 August 2013 at 12:12 PM
    Joanne: Glad you like the summary and the headline (the first part was from Portent's Content Idea Generator, the rest was my addition). It's a fun tool - enjoy.
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