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Cynder Sinclair


Cynder Sinclair: Ways Your Nonprofit Can Engage Millennials as Donors and Volunteers (Part 2)

Our last article highlighted ways of working with your Millennial employees.

We pointed out that an estimated 80 million young Americans belong to the so-called Millennial generation, roughly ages 18 to 38.

In five years, they will represent half of all workers. Working with this generation of employees can be frustrating if you don’t understand their world view, so we gave you some tips on attracting and successfully involving these young workers.  

This article will provide guidelines for enticing, engaging, and keeping Millennial donors and volunteers for your nonprofit. Born between 1977 and 1997, Millennials are the most educated and culturally diverse of any generation before them.

Understanding what motivates this rising cohort will help nonprofits be more successful in retaining Millennials as donors and volunteers.

Donors — They have $300 billion in spending power, and of that, $62.7 billion is considered discretionary. Millennials are the beneficiaries of a $41 trillion transfer of wealth from older generations. So you should have a fund development plan targeted to their unique perspective on philanthropy.

Volunteers — In 2010, 11.6 million Millennials dedicated 1.2 billion hours of their time to volunteer service. Volunteer rates for this generation have risen steadily since then, increasing from 31.4 percent to 28.4 percent in just the last five years.

This trend indicates the importance of nonprofits attracting Millennial volunteers and setting them up with meaningful opportunities to contribute their time and talent.

Millenials are masters of digital communication and are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities, which makes them ideal candidates for volunteering in the nonprofit sector and becoming donors.

Let’s take a look at some tips on understanding how to attract, engage, and retain Millenials as donors and volunteers.

Millennials as Donors

Diyana Dobberteen, a recent graduate from Fielding Graduate University’s Nonprofit Leadership Certificate program, offers this valuable perspective when working with Millennial donors: “Knowing that parents were committed to an issue or consistently gave to a cause will be increasingly less important. As the Generation X and Y donors make way for Millennials, they are less tradition bound and more individualistic,” she wrote. 

“Each nonprofit has a distinct culture and as generations change, the organization must renew the new generation’s commitment to the mission. That involves making the case to the children of their most loyal supporters. Building new relationships, without the benefit of a personal reference, a familial tie or longstanding connection to an issue is infinitely more challenging. Rather than donating from a sense of obligation, actions and commitments will be lasting if a donor creates a personal link to the issue. To overcome barriers, nonprofits should try new strategies and host events to ‘re-enlist children’ of major donors. That would be one means of retaining likely organizational stakeholders and the nonprofit will benefit from inter-generational commitment to the cause.”

Here are a few more tips to use when working with Millennial donors.

Take a long-term view when working with these donors. Their gifts may not be large, but they will grow over time if these young donors are committed to your cause. Focus on renewing gifts rather than the amount of the gift.

Focus not only on your mission, but more importantly on what your organization is actually accomplishing. What difference is it making? Describe real-life examples. Millenials respond when they perceive a real need, like the Haiti earthquake or the Katrina floods.

Having communication with your nonprofit leader will provide them the connection they value so much. Email is their preferred method of communication and it does not need to be frequent — perhaps two or three times a year.

Provide them with lots of information about your organization and its fiscal health.

Give them lots of ways of getting involved in your programs because they are more likely to give if they feel a meaningful connection to your organization.

Make your requests for specific and unique needs rather than general support.

Employ a multi-channel, high-tech process to reach these donors, but rely on face-to-face contact when making the ask.

Millennials as Volunteers

This unique cohort has established itself as a new breed of activists and doers. But for the average nonprofit, understanding how to engage them in volunteer work can be puzzling.

Millennials are seen as ambitious and hopeful, yet demystifying this unique volunteer is critical because the problems facing our local and global communities call for exactly the values they believe in: collaboration, teamwork, openness, and transparency.

Here are some tips for finding and involving this unique type of volunteer.

Promote volunteer opportunities through peer influencers and other online agents of your organization.

Create volunteer recruitment campaigns through social media networks

Your website must have a clear call to action for volunteer opportunities. It must be actionable and show impact.

Be sure to solicit feedback from your volunteers, provide follow-up, and ask what you can do to improve their experience and your organization.

Find ways to offer volunteer opportunities that play a role in leading your organization and making it better. Put their brains, expertise, and skills to work.

Create team positions and opportunities to volunteer in groups with their peers.

Regular communication will help retain these volunteers.

Recognize their collaborative efforts and acknowledge individuals for being team players.

Whether your nonprofit wants to identify younger volunteers or engage donors from this generation, it all starts with becoming informed about what attracts and motivates this unique cohort. Once you understand their distinctive way of seeing the world you can successfully tailor your approach to involving this group’s high energy and deep commitment in your mission.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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