Generation Y: A Case for Courting Millennials

New articles and surveys are always popping up on the topic of America’s youngest adult generation. There’s a race to understand this cohort of some 70 million born 1981-2000, which, by their sheer number, will be influential leaders and consumers in the decades to come. They are considered the most ethnically diverse generation—1 in 3 is considered a minority, have been shaped by heavily-involved “helicopter parents” and, thanks to the well-connected age of information and travel, are considered more globally and civically conscious than previous generations at their age.

As fundraising professionals considering how to best allocate their budget resources, this up-and-coming generation is often overlooked. Non-profit organizations are often remiss in engaging potential young donors, instead waiting for a future time when they are perceived to have greater financial stability and resources. However, as organizations seek to supplement an aging donor base, this philosophy to dismiss young potential donors may prove costly over time.

The 2012 Millennial Impact Report revealed that 75% of young donors financially supported a charity last year. While those contributions were generally small, the cultivation of greater future support has begun. And the value young donors bring to a cause may be greater than the financial support they provide. As a highly networked, social group, Millenials are quick to give their opinion and rely heavily on the endorsements of their peers. Channeling this buzz in support of your organization’s mission can elevate your organization’s profile and enlarge your potential donor and volunteer bases. This generation is more likely than previous ones to get involved in an organization simply on the recommendation of their peers. Millenials want to get involved now—and to know that they are making a difference. Waiting for them to financially mature may mean your organization misses out altogether.

What can you do now? Develop a realistic strategy for how you’ll actively involve young potential donors. Typically, this generation isn’t seeking lengthy terms on governing boards, or high levels of time commitment. Instead, ask them to pass along information on organizational updates and events to their peers. Encourage them to attend your organization’s events, participate in a short-term project or distribute promotional posters. Ask them to blog about the good work your organization is doing. These types of engagement benefit the organization and provide meaningful work for young potential donors as you cultivate them for greater involvement.

Stewardship: Ready, Fire, Aim

My phone rings….”Can you do a talk to the kids before Sunday School.  They will be getting offering envelopes and we want you to tell them about giving.”  “I can do that,” I reply.  “What will the offering from the kids be used for?” I ask.  “Let me get back to you!”

As I thought about this conversation, isn’t this how we often do stewardship and fundraising?  We start with our desire to get money, or perhaps our desire to teach generosity and instill a value that everything comes from God.  Then, we decide what we need the money for.

In stewardship and fundraising, the “Case for Gifts” is most critical.  With a good case, gifts will come because it is a cause that people can wrap their minds around it.

As you begin to think about your fall stewardship appeal, decide on your case first.  Then, go back and figure out who you will ask, for how much and how you will ask them.

My next question when they called back…”How will we let the kids know the impact of their gifts?”  Don’t worry, we’ll figure that out too!