Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff


Millennial generation supports causes, not groups

Leaders of nonprofit organizations who want to connect with supporters in their 20s and early 30s, known as the Millennial Generation, need to share information about their cause, not the organization itself, and they had better be sure their websites are updated regularly, according to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report published last month.

Three out of four Millennials surveyed said they were turned off when a nonprofit’s website had not been updated. And over 60 percent of respondents said they wanted to hear stories about successful projects and the people helped by the nonprofit. Ultimately, Millennials support causes for which they have passion, so they need to be inspired and shown how their support can make a tangible difference in their community.

In 2010, Lynne Lancaster, Sonoma resident and internationally acclaimed author and speaker on communication across generations, wrote the book called “The M Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace.” In a recent interview, Lancaster advised,” Nonprofits need to understand that even if they have a long history and wonderful legacy, Millennials are not very interested in the past or even in the organization. They want to know about impact and results, so frame your message to them in terms of the difference they can make in the world.”

“Think Mobile First” should be the mantra of every nonprofit leader who wants to reach this generation of people born between 1979 and 1994, because 75 percent of Millennials actively press the Like button on Facebook, retweet a Tweet they have received on Twitter from a nonprofit, or share content that their favorite nonprofits send them via some form of social media.

In addition, 47 percent of the Millennials surveyed reported that they sign petitions nonprofits post, and 45 percent reported that they donate to nonprofits via social media.  Millennials who want constant updates on an organization no longer return to the organization’s website, instead they rely on social media to keep abreast of what the organization is currently doing.

This generation is clearly interested in supporting nonprofits, with 65 percent reporting that they regularly receive email or newsletters from one to five nonprofits and 73 percent of them reporting that they volunteered for a nonprofit in 2012.

Lancaster offered these thoughts to nonprofit leaders, “Don’t underestimate how important social media has become for Millennials. It isn’t just ‘one more tool’ for communicating, it is THE tool. And keep in mind that Millennials see social media as a two-way conversation. They want to post their thoughts and feedback, share comments with peers and friends, and they will want to hear back from you.

“Nonprofits can’t treat social media the way we formerly used websites–as a way of posting information,” she says. “Think of social media as a back and forth dialogue.”

Millennials are an extremely philanthropic group in that 83 percent of them made a financial gift to a nonprofit in 2012. However, this group tends to give in smaller amounts and more frequently than their older counterparts. Approximately 23 percent of the Millennials surveyed said that their largest donation to a nonprofit was $51 to $100, while 40 percent said their largest nonprofit gift was $50 or less.

Although their donations may be relatively small, 52 percent of them said they would be willing to make monthly gifts. A whopping 84 percent of Millennials reported that their preferred form of giving is through a website. In addition, 70 percent of the respondents indicated that they would be willing to raise money for an organization they cared about, and 64 percent said they had actually raised money for a nonprofit during a fundraising walk or race.

So, what can nonprofit leaders do to connect with Millennials? Lancaster suggests, “If you don’t know enough about Millennials, invite them in for some focus groups, or even just casual conversations so you can hear about how they give, what approaches they prefer, and how they find out about causes. Invite board members and other decision makers to sit in and listen. It will be a tremendous eye opener for them to hear how Millennials think.”

Remember, this is a huge, powerful generation that is already engaged in giving,” Lancaster advises. “It is not too early to get to know them and get them involved with your cause.”

Dr. B.J. Bischoff owns Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm that builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies to better serve their stakeholders. She is President of Impact100 Sonoma, leads the Sonoma Valley Presidents Council and serves on the Sonoma Upstream Investments Portfolio Review Committee as an appointee of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Contact her at bjbischoff@bjbischoff.com.

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