As Generation Y becomes more of a force in the nonprofit world this year, many organizations need to be ready to engage young people as volunteers, attendees, donors, and advocates. While each charity is different, any organization can leverage the energy and youth of Millennials in order to begin to recruit passionate and dedicated individuals to rally support for a cause. One of the more formal ways of doing this is by setting up an official young professionals (YP) group at your organization. This may be a junior board of directors or an ad hoc group of volunteers that regularly comes together to put on an event aimed at recruiting their peers and introducing the organization to a new group of potential supporters.
But, starting a YP board or group is no small task, and many organizations struggle with getting one off the ground that creates real benefit for the nonprofit. Therefore, here are five things to keep in mind when starting a young professional group for your nonprofit:
Start small and dream big
Asking a Millennial to make a long-term commitment, especially to a new cause, can be a risky proposition. Instead of asking a young person to promise to attend or volunteer several hours each week, start by inviting them to an informal informational session or other social function. Be sure to introduce the cause and start to show the group how introductory involvement with your organization can lead to tangible impact in the community. Showcase the ultimate goal of your organization, but break down their commitment into smaller, digestible tasks.
Let them know where this is going
Because competition in the social sector is fierce, and because Millennials may hop from cause to cause until they find one that "fits", be sure to share the story of what deeper involvement looks like. Let them know that any person of any age can be a crucial asset to your organization and show them how meaningful a longer commitment can be. Be sure to listen and find where their talents and passions lay. Matching their personal goals and skills with your needs will keep them more involved.
Leverage the power of social teamwork
Generation Y grew up involved in teams and groups - from scouts to Little League to going to the prom - so they understand the power and idea of working together. Take advantage of this natural tendency by programming volunteer opportunities that require a group. If you only offer individual volunteer engagements, you'll miss a lot of people. Give the junior board a common goal and encourage them to work together to reach it, whether it is a fundraising or recruitment effort. Then, when they meet their goal, reward them appropriately.
Set bigger and bigger goals for key individuals
Not every young volunteer will go on to chair your governing board of directors, but one just may. So, as you get to know your YP board, seek out those individuals who are very committed and have a skill set that is valuable to your organization. Offer them volunteer leadership roles and encourage them regularly. You'll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can find someone who is skilled and who can help your mission for a very long time.
Create a great experience
Above all, Millennials want a great experience out of their volunteer opportunities. This includes making an impact in the community, but it also means that the activity is fun, meaningful, and worth talking about. This socially connected generation has a chance to spread the good word about your work, so be sure to put the extra thought and effort into creating something unique they can be a part of. Then, they'll start to do the recruiting work for you as they tell their friends about the great time they're having on your board.
More and more, nonprofits will need to rely on Gen Y to continue creating change. Starting with a YP group is a great way to begin this process for your nonprofit.
What ideas do you have?
What are some other ways that nonprofits can recruit and retain Millennials? Share your ideas in the comments below.