What a quandary nonprofits find themselves in – what to do with Millennials: that is, that generation of “skinny jean wearing, latte sipping, app downloading, futon surfing, instagramming, lol’ing, twerking, sexting youngins” that has the boomers behind the wheel all in a flap. And as is expected of my generation, I’m here on this digital soap box to tell you a thing or two about us and our weird, weird hair.
Despite my tendency to pine for Urbie Green on vinyl, the smell of mimeograph, and a good tuna fish pie, I’m a millennial myself (and so are ¾ of my children, depending on your definition.) No matter how you slice it, Millennials are really tired of being treated like entitled, lazy brats with nothing to contribute. The “kids these days” mentality is a poor excuse and not useful for building relationships. I really don’t feel the division is meaningful, but it exists nonetheless.
So playing into this divide, I’ll give a few pointers on how to connect with younger supporters. I’d call this the Millennial Engagement Pyramid, but pyramids are so, like, uggh, pfffft, and shape-like. I’ll call this the Generation Y Organic Disruption Device.
- Connect – This is more than social media, m’kay? Look for opportunities to make those initial connections in person. Where? Universities, colleges, pubs, chamber of commerce events, drinking rye and coke and jumping off a pirate ship, whatever. Social media is a great start, but like internet dating, it gets weird when you only want to Snapchat your logo at us.
- Engage – We’re really no different than any other generation in this regard. Tell stories, show your impact, be transparent, and for goodness sakes, don’t bore us.
- Involve – We are going to give our time first and our money second. Involve Gen Y in meaningful ways – volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. Gen Y is also quite likely to get involved in event-based fundraising.
- Collaborate – Here’s what’s missing, folks. Gen Y has collaboration ingrained in the brain. Your greatest alliances are going to be partnerships with groups (large or small) of Gen Ys who have something in common/some kind of alignment with your mission, and getting them in on the ground level of a project/event/etc. This may take extra effort, but you’ll seriously see a payoff. Gen Y is hungry to collaborate, and starving to make changes.
The nature of relationships with donors, regardless of their generation, is changing. We’re all living in a screwed up world and we want to see more from our donation dollars. We all demand real impact, real change, and want our relationships with non-profits to be transparent, authentic, cooperative and cause-driven (as opposed to faceless institutions using high-pressure sales tactics to take the money and run.)
Investing in real human relationships – whether it be online, on paper, in person, or via carrier pigeon – will ensure donors of any age feel their needs as philanthropists are being met.
Written by Sheena Greer
“Sheena often uses inappropriate humour and seeks attention in negative ways.” – Sheena’s 9th grade report card.
Raised on a farm on a heavy diet of George Carlin, Patsy Cline and William Blake, Sheena Greer grew with the stubborn-hearted idea that we need to do all we can to help each other, and that being a girl was a moot point. She currently employs her inappropriate humour as a writer, and helps nonprofits and social enterprises seek attention in positive ways by consulting with them on their communications, fundraising and strategy.