Millennial Engagement: It’s Good For You

July 15, 2013

Derrick Feldmann and Kelley Lavin, publisher of Sarasota Magazine, talk onstage during the 2013 Fundraisers Forum on July 12

Derrick Feldmann and Kelley Lavin, publisher of Sarasota Magazine, talk onstage during the 2013 Fundraisers Forum on July 12

Those famous words from mom about the Brussels sprouts still echo in the collective consciousness of adults around the country: “Just try them; they’re good for you.”

True, new things can seem like unsavory annoyances, but when we regard them as such, we miss out on opportunities.

I’ve seen nonprofits doing it–I’ve observed myself doing it.

Some organizations approach Millennial engagement in this way. Yikes!

Changing the standard nonprofit business model and donor cultivation route just because a “new” generation demands it is not always easy to stomach. The fact is, many of us find it hard to attract young people because we are expecting to do so in the same way we involve everyone else.  We do not know how to approach and view Millennials as they want to be approached and viewed.

After listening to Derrick Feldmann address nonprofits at the 2013 Fundraisers Forum on July 12, I hope more of us are convinced that we should try to cultivate Millennials, not just because we have to as a long-term investment, but because it’s good for our missions in the short-term too.

Tapping into the research Derrick Feldmann has conducted on more than 14,000 Millennials over the last four years, we can understand how our organizations can be more flexible, open, and responsive overall.

In Derrick’s keynote at the Fundraisers Forum, we learned that…

  • Peers (not organization leaders with fancy titles) are huge Millennial influencers.
  • Event fundraising–such as walk-run events–is deeply engrained in the Millennial mindset. It started in grade school when they were first introduced to raising money.
  • Millennials often count sharing your content on Facebook or Twitter as “being engaged” in your nonprofit.
  • The average donation from a Millennial is around $21. On average, Millennials contribute to 6 causes each year.
  • A Millennial’s allegiance is often to a particular cause, not a particular nonprofit.
  • Millennials expect openness and transparency and a focus on solutions.
  • They are prepared to spread their own messages about your cause and want to do so through multiple channels.
  • E-mail based donation appeals can be popular with Millennials, as long as they are short, compelling and illustrative of direct impact.
  • International organizations have been particularly successful with Millennials, largely because they make excellent use of imagery in appeals and showcase how a small donation can make a specific difference.

Are you ready to embrace the opportunities here?

Millennials have a lot to teach us, and it’s time to start letting them do it. If we are not ready for them, they will find a different nonprofit to support or start one themselves, their way.

You can check out Cause for Change: The How and Why of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s nonprofit library. E-mail KCarroll@CFSarasota.org for information.

Many thanks to Derrick Feldmann for making a trip to Sarasota for the Fundraisers Forum, an annual partnership of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southwest Florida chapter.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


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