What Your Nonprofit Can Do to Engage Millennials

    by Brady Josephson

    Date

    October 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    millennials-nonprofitsMillennials, or Gen Y, make up the largest generation in American history. In 5 years, this demographic will be spending $200 billion annually, not to mention $10 trillion in their lifetime. So ... where does charity fit into this picture, and how can your nonprofit start engaging with Millennials? Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

    Bad News

    • Engaging with Millennials to give and get involved in your nonprofit takes work.
    • It also often requires a shift in thinking.
    • Many people are already doing it.
    • If you don’t do it well, your nonprofit won't thrive -- and could go face many difficulties in growing.

    Good News

    • Millennials aren’t that different from “regular” donors.
    • They want to be engaged in charities and causes.
    • They have social influence that can spread your organization’s message.
    • They have (or will have) more resources to give than you think.

    To ensure you take advantage of this substantially large group, I've laid out four ways in which your nonprofit can get on its way to connecting with Millennials (like me) and getting a piece of that $10 trillion dollar pie (which, by the way, will most likely be online pie).

    Inspire: Tell Stories

    We don’t get inspired about you -- we get inspired by the work you do and the people you help. Those are the stories that make us feel alive and want to take action. Those are the stories you need to tell.

    Welcome_Home_George

    Look at Invisible Children, for example. Those behind the Kony 2012 campaign are great at firing up Millennials, with stories of injustice and corresponding stories of success. The group offers tangible missions and challenges for their Millennial donors to take on.

    Impact: Show It

    We view giving strategically and to charitable organizations as just one of the ways we can use our resources to help our communities. We want to know and see the difference we can make if we give and get involved, so tangible impact is key. A great way to display impact on your site is by showing relevant stats and results.

    charity-water-numbers

    Nobody shows impact in simple, accessible ways better than charity: water. Yes, they have cool design, great videos, and a slick website, but those things alone don’t keep donors -- Millennials or otherwise -- around. Showing people how their donations are making an impact and what they are helping to achieve is essential for engaging Millennials.

    Incentivize: Tangible and Intangible Benefits

    In the world of fundraising incentives, premiums can be a controversial topic, as they can muddy the waters of altruism and giving for the sake of giving. What can’t be undervalued is providing incentives that are both intangible (like making someone feel special) and tangible (like offering matching funds or a trip to see the work for the winner).

    I helped run a social fundraising campaign for Dalit Freedom Network last spring, and we offered a simple one-to-one matching opportunity for two months as part of the campaign, which helped increase online donations over 300%! Matching won’t always work that well, but it works more often than not -- and especially with Gen Y donors.

    infographic-brady

    Involve: In Meaningful Ways

    If you want us to lick envelopes and that’s it, forget about it. But if you see our time as a useful asset, then you’re off to a good start. If there are opportunities for us to grow, connect, and even develop as people and professionals, now you’re offering something that really appeals to us.

    Opportunity International has started its own young professionals group, called Young Ambassadors for Opportunity, that focuses on frequent, local events to connect people together. They also provide special leadership and board opportunities as well as trips for people to see the work being accomplished firsthand. It all adds up to meaningful ways for Millennials to plug-in and keep connected.

    young_ambassadors_for_opps

    If you can make strides in inspiring your donors through stories, demonstrating your impact in concrete ways, providing extra incentives and meaningful involvement opportunities, I have no doubt you'll have success in engaging with Millennials.

    If you're looking for a more in depth discussing about these four areas, register for our webinar on October 24 at 3 p.m. EST, when we will dive deeper into engaging Millennials.

    Brady Josephson, a Millennial himself, is the Strategic Director at Charity Express, a Vancouver-based digital agency for nonprofits, and Client Success Team Lead at Peer Giving Solutions, a web platform company empowering storytelling and enabling fundraising. He’s also an adjunct professor at North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management in Chicago, where we received his Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration. You can read his thoughts at recharity.ca and follow him on Twitter at @bradyjosephson.

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