With a spending power of roughly $200 billion, companies, nonprofits, and almost anyone else is looking to get into the pockets of Generation Y (also known as Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1995). But, doing it can be a challenge, especially as new technology changes quickly and trends come and go overnight. This is a very important demographic for charities and nonprofits to pay attention to. One of the hallmarks of this generation is the fact that more and more of its members are graduating high school and college with service requirements placed upon their degrees and other club memberships. This means that by the time they get out into the real world, many Millennials have had several hours volunteering, fundraising, or mentoring. Nonprofits can spend less time on bringing people up to speed (organizational particulars notwithstanding) and more time mobilizing 20-somethings to do good in the community.
But, there's a catch. Just because Generation Y is well versed in the ways of charity does not mean they'll suddenly break down your door, dying to volunteer their time or donate $5. Just as with other asks and appeals in the nonprofit world, this generation has a specific way to be reached. And, following these three themes will get you off to a good start as you seek to help your charity fill its volunteer and donor bases with young people.
Lead with transparency
A recent article at GreenBiz.com shares some of what Millennials are looking for in green companies. Towards the end of the piece, the young person profiled says:
I think there's a call for business to understand, as they gain more power, politically, socially and obviously economically, there's a responsibility to behave like a good citizen and enforce the public good. Coupled with that is the idea of transparency. My generation, our lives are so transparent, we post the most intimate details of our public life online. Because we are so transparent we don't understand any other way of being.
The same is true with nonprofit organizations. In writing about how museums can attract young people, Colleen Dilenschneider suggests that behind-the-scenes looks will compel Millennials to visit an attraction or event.
In other words, young people don't expect any walls to be put up. Gone are the days of rigid, stoic institutions (at least ones that Generation Y wants to be a part of). If you can remember that young professionals are more interested in authenticity than authority, you're off to a good start.
Learn how to share
Remember what your kindergarten teacher taught you? It's still true, especially for Generation Y. Social sharing is second nature for this group, and countless status updates, likes, tweets and check-ins prove it. How easy is it for a young person to share what you're doing?
In a guest post at Kivi Leroux Miller's NonprofitMarketingGuide.com, Robyn Mendez seconds this idea, offering that the easier it is to share, the more likely your site, exhibit, or donation opportunity will spread through any Millennial's virtual network. This then eases the marketing burden on you and over time will result in new leads.
Let them have a say
Think Millennials are entitled? They are. But it's not their fault. All they did was attend school and listen to teachers tell them how special they were. Then, they came home to parents who told them they could do anything. Instead of using their entitlement as a reason to ignore them, embrace their need for encouragement and offer them a say in how things are done.
Dilenschneider offers up a brilliant suggestion and goes so far as to say that Generation Y can help to curate exhibits or shows. She says:
Curators are no longer the celebrity rockstars of the museum world… the visitors now hold that title.... Having knowledgeable, academically-celebrated staff may be extremely important for content accuracy and other functions… but for this over-educated generation, your celebrated curator’s “celebrity” isn’t the key to increasing reputation. That key is in appealing to us personally and lending control and content creation to the people.
Clearly, a process will need to be in place to best handle input like this, but providing opportunities for this generation to lead may pleasantly surprise you.
Of course, you never need to neglect other generations, but if you're not at least thinking about how to appeal to Generation Y, then you're already behind. The question isn't whether or not you'll need to appeal to Millennials for the sake of your nonprofit; it's how well you want to do it.