There is a debate in the nonprofit arena on how much effort there should be towards recruiting the next generation of donors – the Millennials. While Millennials may not individually donate large sums of money, their collective power can help raise thousands for nonprofits. Nonprofit groups should be aggressively working to involve people in their 20s and 30s. More importantly, nonprofits need to consider a long-term philanthropic strategy for the future of their organization.
You maybe thinking, here we go again with the Millennials. Those overly tolerate 20-35 year olds who are tech-savvy and pop culture obsessed. They play by different rules and often times, want to create their own. To many they are frustrating, especially in the work force, but they are an untapped market with big potential. More specifically, they are extremely socially conscious and will play an even bigger role in how companies handle corporate social responsibility and being a good corporate citizen.
I am excited about the Millennial generation and you should be too. Millennials are roughly 80 million strong and represent $170 billion in purchasing power. To give you some context, there are as many Millennials as there are baby boomers and we know how the baby boomers have shaped this country. Nonprofits need to adapt and change to attract this demographic so that they can compete with organizations that are already trying to target them. So how do you get them involved?
Start a Young Professionals Group
It has been ingrained in the Millennial culture to volunteer and be involved. The brainwash starts at birth, as parents know it is essential for college applications. Currently, there is a need by the nonprofits to attract new volunteers/donors and there is a demand of Millennials who want to be involved because that is all they have ever known. While some charities avoid seeking donations from people under 40 because they lack sizable financial assets, cultivating younger donors is key to the long-term success of nonprofit groups.
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is a great example of a charity that realized they needed to engage a younger audience. Knowing this, they started a group to recruit the next generation of patrons in 2010 with the sole purpose to get more individuals engaged in the theater and have them serve as ambassadors in the community. While the Broward Center’s primary goal was not for them to be fundraisers, three years later the group has raised a total of $130,000 (net) since its inception. They also have 100+ active members and theatergoers who regularly visit the facility. Do not underestimate what this group can do for your organization.
Give Them a Seat on Your Board of Directors
I have witnessed how some boards of directors have groupthink. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints by isolating themselves from outside influences. One cannot blame them for it happening. When you look around the boardroom the same type of person is involved in the group (e.g. race, age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc…). These are individuals who are making decisions about an upcoming generation and how to market to them and yet none of them are part of that generation.
To fill this void, another young professionals group, Emerge Broward, created a program called “Board Engagement.” The organization reaches out to certain boards of directors and asks them if they would be willing to add a young professional to their board. Through an application and interview process, a young professional is selected to join a specific board based on his/her interests. This program has been extremely successful with 15-30 young professionals placed on a board each year. It is a win/win for both. The boards gain new ideas and a different way of thinking from the Millennial and the Millennial does not have to wait until he/she is in their 40s to gain board experience. By the time they reach the prime of their careers, they will know how to be an active and engaged board member.
Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Whether you are put off or inspired by the Millennial generation, they are here and are a force to be reckoned with. Millennials are already reshaping how corporate philanthropy works and they will also re-define how nonprofits work, measure their impact and communicate with their future donors. If your nonprofit does not cater to them, they will choose another organization to support. While no charity is perfect, if charities do not adapt and change they will continue to stand still. And standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world.