Editor's Note: This past June the 2012 Millennial Impact Report was released, answering important questions about how Millennials (ages 20-35) engage with nonprofits: how they discover organizations, give, volunteer, and lead. For the insider's perspective, in the following article Gen Y-er Amelia Northrup of TRG Arts offers a personal response to the report's findings. Both pieces provide timely, insightful, and useful information for anyone programming to millennial audiences.
A Research Project By Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA)
The 2012 Millennial Impact Report, the third annual examination of Millennials, ages 20-35, revealed these young professionals to be driven by moments of inspiration but still understanding the value of an organization’s work and building authentic, personal relationships with the nonprofits they choose to support.
The survey featured a respondent pool of Millennials age 20-35 that were highly educated (over 95% with at least a Bachelors degree), middle income (59% had $25,000-99,000 household income), and largely without kids (only 18% had children). Respondents were 66% female and 34% male. Through use of partner organizations, the sampling was inclusive of all regions of the United States.
In 2012, Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) expanded their methodology to gather information from three sources: an online survey featuring 6,522 responses from 14 institutions, three focus groups, and an online survey of 89 nonprofit professionals. While this year’s study addressed some of the same topics as in the past two years, it also touched on new topics and revealed fresh insights into Millennials and their relationships with nonprofit organizations.
Technology has allowed Millennials to expect immediate and impulsive interactions with nonprofit organizations. Organizations’ websites remain the primary hub for learning about a nonprofit, seeking volunteer opportunities and giving. In one glance at your website they want to know what your organization is doing, how they can participate, and how their participation helps the cause.
As social media, email marketing, and mobile continues to grow, these platforms all should be providing concise, targeted messages driving readers to the website to dig deeper into the topics that interest them.
Smartphones and mobile devices are clearly making a major impact on how this generation interacts with organizations and must become a critical part of engagement and giving strategies moving forward.
Three-quarters of survey respondents own a smartphone, thus giving them access to your nonprofit’s website and social media presences anytime, anywhere. As reflected in last year’s study, social media is a key channel for Millennials to connect and spread the word about nonprofits. However, organizations will be wise not to use the latest technology just for the sake of ‘being cool’. Each platform serves its own pur¬pose and way of building engagement and must have a dedicated strategy to get the most out of it. Smaller nonprofits would be better to focus energy on one or two social networks, than try to keep up with the changing trends and not fully integrating into each medium.
As has been revealed in past surveys, Millennials tend to be generous with their time, volunteering with nonprofits that inspire them. If they form long-term volunteer relationships, they tend to give larger gifts and encourage friends and family to give and volunteer as well. When they do volunteer, Millennials want a continuum of options – from one-time engagements to long-term opportunities – and, while they want the chance to work on the front lines delivering services, they especially want to leverage their knowledge, expertise, and backgrounds to help lead nonprofits.
In particular, Millennials want to see more opportunities to lead on boards and committees. They feel that young professional groups and events provide a great opportunity to informally get to know an organization, but when it comes to leadership they want to share their experience and skills with the greater cause.
Three-quarters of the Millennials responding to our survey made a financial gift to a nonprofit organization in 2011. While the majority of those gifts were $100 or less per organization, 15% of Millennials gave gifts of $500 or more to individual nonprofits. Some of this giving was in immediate response to an emotional reaction, with Millennials saying in focus groups that they like to give “in the moment.” Still, they want to know that their gifts will have an impact, and are interested in seeing the tangible results that will come from their giving. They’re more likely to give larger gifts to organizations with which they have strong relationships. Strong relationships also will compel Millennials to act as fundraisers. More than 70% of Millennials surveyed said they have raised money on behalf of nonprofits. As in years past, Millennials said they are most likely to help raise money by spreading the word or promoting a fundraising event, or participating in walk, run or cycling events, usually relying on friends and family to support their cause. Many nonprofits are experimenting with what works and doesn’t with this emerging generation. Follow their lead and take action now to build a pipeline for the future supporters of your organization.
The young professionals that constituted the Millennial Survey and focus groups made it clear, that they are ready and eager to help causes about which they are passionate succeed.
While initially this may mean volunteering one-time or attending a cocktail party to learn more about the organization, once invested in an organization they are more than willing to dedicate time to volunteering professional skills, taking leadership on boards, and making financial contributions within their budget.
As much as technology has to offer nonprofits, it’s no substitute for clear communication, demonstrations of real impact and the development of lasting relationships. As we have learned over and over, even as they embrace social media and increasingly sophisticated technology, nonprofits must dedicate themselves to the foundational work of drafting and delivering sound, clear messages about their missions, their impact and their opportunities for engagement.
Achieve is a creative fundraising agency, supporting nonprofits in their fundraising campaigns to attract attention and secure financial support from the community. Achieve leads the research effort to understand the impact of millennial (ages 20-35) on nonprofit causes, and surveys millennials on their giving and engagement preferences every year.
Since 1994, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) has taken an authentic, strategic approach to providing philanthropic consulting services to private colleges, seminaries, independent schools, and large cultural, community and health organizations. Our full-service firm assists with capital campaigns, development audits, feasibility studies and general fundraising counsel.