Nonprofits are Tapping into the Strengths of a Generation: the Millennials
With multiple generations in the workforce and fundraisers trying to reach all segments of the population, it’s necessary to tailor your fundraising and volunteer need requests to fit your audience.
You can no longer use one sweeping cattle call of a request to drum up dollars and people. Generation Y, sometimes referred to as the Echo Boomers because of their huge numbers (according to the US Census there are three times as many Gen Ys as there are Gen Xers), has a reputation for being extremely peer-oriented due, in part, to the reliance on instant communication technologies and the Internet, including email, IMs, texting and social media components like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
When targeting the approximately 60 million Generation Y’s (although exact birth years are widely argued, for purposes of this article and statistics – individuals born between 1979-1994), you need to give some thought as to who they are and what motivates them. If Gen X is the MTV generation, you can think of the Millennials as the American Idol generation. They have been awarded throughout school with everybody-wins trophies. You show up, you get a ribbon. (Alsop, Ron. The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace. Jossey-Bass)
This has yielded a generation transfixed in its own belief that they are an agent’s dream and they impatiently await being discovered (à la shows like American Idol). They are the first generation to grow up “immersed in a digital- and Internet-driven world.” (Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital.)
But they are also a very giving group.
Their over-scheduled youth translates into a need and willingness to do more – and they dream big! They believe everything can be done, everything is possible. You can use this to your advantage. USA Today reports that they volunteer more than any previous generation and they are more socially conscious than any generation since World War II.
This benefits nonprofits in a very direct way. Generation Y wants to give, you just have to find a way to appeal to them.
1. They are technology-savvy. It’s not enough for you to have a website. Gen Y’s online usage extends past such basics. You need to involve them. Interaction is key. Gen Y prefers texts to voicemail. And text messaging is done during everything from driving, to watching a game, to using the restroom. You want a platform that can go where this group is going – everywhere. Ensure that your website and community is mobile-ready.
2. They need to feel appreciated. Remember the everyone gets a ribbon idea? This group has plenty to offer, so ask them. Online communities and wikis are great for keeping their interest and soliciting their feedback.
3. They have requirements. Whether their urge to do good is innate or part of a school requirement, this generation wants to serve. Make sure you are very clear about your needs. Volunteer management is essential and will keep them coming back (and bringing their friends).
4. They want to be a part of something big. This generation, more so than any before it, has an enormous need to be the next biggest (fill in the blank) and most of their plans involve being affluent and lauded. While nonprofits may not be a route to millions, they know it can be a way to get recognized (and looks good on a resume) and although that is not why you want someone to be donating time or money, it can be a motivator for them. Showing them the difference they make is essential. Consider this when drafting your Gen Y campaigns. Blogs can also be an integral part of keeping them interested as they like to see their thoughts highlighted in a public forum. While preceding generations may have preferred anonymous donations, Gen Yers want their names in lights and on the side of buildings. A donation scroll on your website is a great way to accomplish this.
5. They don’t believe in doing things because they’ve always been done that way. Their allegiance is not to established means, methods or groups. They want to try things on their own and be a part of something, helping it become more than it is. They thrive on feedback and want larger roles within organizations and the workforce. Appeal to this need to be needed and showcase their good deeds.
Along with collaboration and transparency, social media has lessened our need to be heard. It has given the public ready-access to a soapbox from which everyone can broadcast their thoughts and opinions. This mass opinion sharing has created a new need – or even the expectation – for personalization. Your requests must be framed with this in mind.
The Millennials, roughly 60 million strong, make up a significant portion of your future (and current) donors and volunteers. In order to capture their attention and resources, you must tailor your offerings to appeal to this tech-savvy group. This is a very different generation you are targeting, so review your website copy and your technologies and see how you can rework them to be more appealing to this important generation.
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