Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 9:08am
posted by
Lars Ward,

Research Aid,
ASU Lodestar Center  

What is your nonprofit doing right now to attract my money? As a 20-something, I have encountered few nonprofits that reach out in a meaningful way for my charitable dollars. Understandably, most nonprofits (and probably yours) design fundraising campaigns for my parents and grandparents knowing that they indeed have more charitable dollars than I do. But I would argue, Generation Y or “millennials”, those born in the 80’s and 90’s, are poised to be the next big thing in charitable giving. Establishing relationships with millennials today can yield immediate results and is absolutely vital to the long-term success of your nonprofit.

Going after the charitable dollars of millennials may seem like “small fish,” but keep this in mind, millennials are now the largest generation in terms of population. Today, there are 79 million millennials in the US, compared to 76 million boomers. Additionally, as my generation moves out of their dorm rooms (or, more aptly, into their parent’s homes) and into the professional world, we will quickly have the kind of incomes that merit your nonprofit’s attention.


Besides being a large group, millennials have been well researched in terms of cultural trends, beliefs and the like, but the area of charitable giving has not had a lot of attention. That is starting to change, and one of the best sources of millennials and their charitable involvement has come from The Millennial Impact, a joint project between Achieve and Johnson Grossnickle Associates. The 2012 report has some very encouraging results, and helps give shape to a demographic you probably are not currently attracting in a meaningful way.

Here are a few things to consider when targeting millennials for your nonprofit:

  1. Your website and social media pages are your nonprofit’s new front door.

    Every part of your online presence needs to be well thought out and packaged in an aesthetically pleasing way (start studying Apple’s marketing, they are especially effective at targeting millennials). Your website also needs to be viewable on smartphones and tablets. Most millennials have one of these devices or are planning on getting one.

  2. Social media shouldn’t replace human connections, it should facilitate them.

    Don’t fall prey to the misconception that millennials only want a shallow relationship with your nonprofit. Getting a millennial to like your page is not enough, nor is an occasional tweet. Your social media goal should be to give it a human element– keep them plugged in to what’s going on in the organization, why it’s important, and how they can be a part of it.

  3. Rethink the charity golf tournament.

    I don’t hate golf – in fact, I use my mulligans very liberally. However, waking up on a Saturday morning to be part of a charity golf foursome doesn’t interest many millennials. Don’t eliminate your golf tournament, but know it is rare for them to show up. What interests them is something fun that they can invite their friends to, and doesn’t differ too much from their regular Friday night plans. As long as it doesn’t detract from your organization’s mission, consider throwing a great networking reception at a trendy restaurant or bar. Think outside the box and you will draw in 20-something givers.

These suggestions are some great places to start, but your plan to include millennials can’t stop here. A new demographic is opening up, and you need to take advantage of it. If you have a mission that is relatable to young people, you could be poised to have a pretty powerful force on your side. Even if they don’t have money (yet), they will donate volunteer hours and they will enlist their friends.

Ultimately, if you only want millennials to be a part of your nonprofit simply because they are a large part of the population, because they have disposable income, or because they have a lot of volunteer hours to give, it’s not going to happen. You need to appeal to them as important members of your organization. Stir the passion that is already in their heart to change the world, and you will be ahead of the curve.

Lars Ward is a graduate student in the Lodestar Center's Master of Nonprofit Studies program at Arizona State University. Lars currently works for the ASU Lodestar Center as a Research Aid, helping manage the AzGates platform, a free grant resourcing tool for Arizona nonprofits.


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Comments

Hear, hear!

Another key point is that Millennials are extremely interested in social good. More and more college graduates are seeking careers in the social sector (link to NYTimes article), buzz words these days are about purposeful careers and giving back, and with the advent of social media, it's easier to hear about the world around us. We care about it.

The real challenge, which you discussed in your article, is to change the way nonprofits interact with their constituents. Millennials demand more of a stake in their causes (ie. they want to be heard), and they want the causes they support to reflect parts of their personality. It's not a tithe or an afterthought - it's a part of our lives.

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