Thanks to JWS Associate Scott W. Herr, PhD, for today’s blog.
The odds are good that within the past month you have read at least one story about how Millennials are changing the world and the way that we all do things. The odds are also not bad that you read such a story every week for the past month. You might be wondering at this point, especially if the latter is the case, what makes this generation so special?
The Millennial generation, which includes adults born between 1981 and 1999, is special because they currently are the largest adult generation in the U.S. and, much like the Baby Boomer generation that formerly held that distinction, the marketplace is responding to their numbers. Unlike the Baby Boomers, however, Millennials’ influence has been bolstered by their coming of age in a digital world where information can be shared instantly. We know what effect millennials have had on McDonald’s and Applebee’s and how they are expected to disrupt the napkin, automobile, and beer industries, but how can nonprofit organizations expect to affected by this up-and-coming generation?
First, it is important to understand the giving habits of this generation. Among the adult generations in the U.S., the percentage of millennials that give to charity (83%) is second only to members of the Greatest Generation (individuals born before 1945). That may be easily overlooked because the average amount of money that millennials donate in a year is about one-fourth of what is donated by members of the Greatest Generation and their donations are distributed across half as many organizations. It is important to note, however, that the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth is currently underway. As the Greatest Generation declines in number, an estimated $30-40 TRILLION dollars is expected to be inherited by members of Generation X and Millennials, which will guarantee their influence in the nonprofit sector for at least a half century.
So, how do you get millennials to support your organization? First, nonprofits need to meet millennials on their terms – you need to go to them instead of expecting them to come to you. You will not get the attention of millennials if you are not using the platforms they use to communicate your message – and you are not going to change their preferred methods of communication. You also need to make it easy to donate to your organization and provide methods for them to be more engaged in fundraising. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your organization have a social media presence?
- How does your organization use social media? Does your Facebook page read like a newsletter? Or do your posts call people to action and encourage sharing?
- Does your organization provide potential supporters with the tools to raise funds on its behalf using Do-It-Yourself fundraisers? (Do you know what a do-it-yourself fundraiser is?)
- Is it as easy to donate to your organization as it is to use Amazon’s One-Click ordering? Or do donors have to complete forms to make a donation?
If you were shaking your head from side to side (or if your head was spinning) while you were reading through that list, then you should consider reviewing your strategies for fundraising and communications and what age groups those strategies appeal to. You should also consider an internal review of your organization to determine what generations are represented on your board or in committees that plan fundraising efforts. Does your organization include millennials in any of its planning or governance? If not, then you should be considering how you might engage millennials in a way that they can actively and meaningfully participate to support your organization.
How does your nonprofit work with millennials?