Stop Stressing About “Millennial Engagement”

Donor Acquisition and Retention

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Part of my job is to keep an eye on trending topics in the nonprofit tech and fundraising world. A while ago, I started noticing more and more articles focusing on a group of people called “millennials” and how to get them involved with nonprofit organizations. I’d never heard the term “millennial” before and it took me a few minutes to figure out that they were talking about me – people like me, anyway – and how to relate to us, how to talk to us, and how to get us interested in donating time and money to charity organizations. “Millennial engagement” seems to be one of the great buzz-phrases of 2013.

The level of statistics, analyses, and general concern about the topic is amusing to me, but that’s probably because I am a millennial. Although I am frequently put off and sometimes offended by the tone of such publications, I’m here to reassure you that we are not aliens or crazy people. I want you to know that, just like previous generations, we want to be involved in charities. We want you to relate to us like our parents want you to relate to them. The biggest difference is that we rely on technology more than other generations.

Here’s the secret to millennial engagement. Ready? Engaging millennials is just like engaging other donors. You need to do four things, and you probably already do some of them:

  1. Tell your organization’s story
  2. Help us help you
  3. Say thank you
  4. Be open about what you do

If you do those four basic things, you’re well on your way to “engaging the millennial generation” (as I’ve seen it phrased). And our steps don’t have to be hard.

To avoid adding to the scores of lengthy articles on this topic, I’m going to break this up over a couple of entries. You’re gonna be amazed at how uncomplicated it is.

Millennial Engagement Step One: Tell Us Your Story

Telling your organization’s story is probably something you’re already doing. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Your story is your most valuable asset – it’s what sets you apart from other organizations, it’s what makes people want to help you, and it’s what will keep supporters coming back over and over again.

Here are some tips about how to tell your story to Generation Y:

1.       Don’t make your story about you.

Stop talking about yourself and start talking about other people. Who are you helping? What are their names? Where do they live? Who helps you? What do they do? We don’t want to hear about how awesome your nonprofit is. We want to know about the people you help and the volunteers who help them.

2.       Be visual.

Show people what makes you special. The human brain is hardwired to respond to visual cues: your audience will get interested if you show them what you’re doing. Post pictures of events, photos of the people you help, video appeals, .gifs – the possibilities are endless. Don’t overdo it, though. Posting a constant barrage of updates is a quick way to annoy your audience.

3.       Be concise.

Between smartphones, tablets, and instant internet access, we’re used to having information right at our fingertips and have little patience for searching for facts in a lot of fluff and jargon. Tell your story and be concise. You have as little as 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention on your website – they’re not going to stick around and read through paragraphs of text to get to the good stuff.

When you think about millennial engagement, think about how you’d want someone to engage with you. Would you want to see a nonprofit talk endlessly about how wonderful it is? Or would you want to hear real-life stories about what they do and see pictures as proof? It’s a no-brainer.

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