What Do Millennials Want from Nonprofits? We Asked Them.

March 19, 2016

what millennials wantWith Millennials (aged 15 to 35 years of age) now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population and making up the majority of the workforce, nonprofits are asking lots of questions about how to engage them.

How can we attract them as staff and keep them? What do they like as donors? As volunteers? Is it true that Millennials only respond to messages on their smart phones and social media?

Last week the Community Foundation of Sarasota County hosted a panel discussion led by some very talented local Millennial leaders to ask them these questions.

Here’s what we learned from our moderator Murray Devine, Communications Project Manager, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, along with his panelists: Andrea Knies, Assistant Director for Community Engagement, New College of Florida; Abigail Oakes, Education and Communications  Coordinator, Nature’s Academy; and Robert Young, Attorney at Icard Merrill Cullis Timm  Furen & Ginsburg PA.

Three Common Myths Millennials Hate

  • Myth: It’s all about me. Reality: Millennials want to be—and are—very involved in their communities. They also love working on teams and being part of teams.
  • Myth: You can best connect with me on my smart phone. Reality: They value and respond well to personal outreach.
  • Myth: I’m ready to take over the organization shortly after I start working there. Reality: They value access to key decision makers both to share ideas and to learn from them.

Millennials as Donors

  • Millennials look for a clear, concise, and well communicated mission.
  • Make it easy to give.
  • They’re masters at detecting canned content and know when they are part of a mass marketing effort or fundraising ask. #notappealing
  • When they’re personally invested in the mission—as volunteers—for example, Millenials are more likely to donate.
  • Millennials enjoy the elements of friendly competition. This is why the Giving Challenge and gamification of philanthropy can be very attractive to them. Teamwork and collaboration for causes they are passionate about speak to the social aspects of what they crave.
  • Annual giving is not a “done deal.” They are often more likely to give when a friend asks or in response to an individual outreach made by someone at the nonprofit.
  • They like to know exactly where their money is going—even if it’s going to operating.

Millennials as Volunteers

  • If you find one passionate Millennial volunteer, you can often access their network of friends and colleagues.
  • Millennials often look for a social component to volunteer opportunities.
  • They will volunteer to tell your organization’s story and do it freely, but you have to give them an easy and engaging story to tell.
  • Taking ownership of specific projects is appealing to most Millennials.

Millennials as Nonprofit Staff Members

  • Even if they don’t have a vote on a final decision, they value the opportunity to have a voice.
  • Money isn’t everything in a position. The opportunity for personal growth, informal/organic mentorship, and participation in key aspects of the operations can be very important.

We hope you will use the insights from this honest conversation to shape a few strategies to engage this huge pool of talent. We don’t want to lose them to other organizations, or to another community.

It’s also noteworthy that generations have a lot in common. Aren’t most of us more attracted to personal outreach than to mass appeals? Don’t most of us value being asked for our input and for opportunities to grow in our positions through access to experience?

Our panelists made it clear that they enjoy working with different generations, and they value relationships with older generations where reciprocity exists.

Post your comments and thoughts here and we’ll publish them to add to the conversation.

-Susie Bowie
VP of Philanthropic Education & Marketing
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


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