Generation Y is one of the first population segments that knows the true meaning of instant gratification, according to Kelly Mahoney, president of marketing agency Newport Creative Communications. A three-week fulfillment window as a standard response is not going to help you cultivate a long-term relationship, she explains. Here, Mahoney discusses what Generation Y’ers mean for fundraising.
FundRaising Success: Define the role of college-aged people in philanthropy.
Kelly Mahoney: “You’ve no doubt heard about Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the dynamic television duo who rocketed to stardom with their broadcast finesse, their unique line of clothing and books, videos and assorted merchandise. Then there’s Charlotte Church, the musical prodigy who became a worldwide sensation, at the age of 13.
“If you’re thinking that these three young adults have nothing to do with philanthropy, think again.
“Welcome to Generation Y — typically referred to as the children of the baby boomer segment. Generation Y ranges from current college-aged adults to children who are old enough to remember Sept. 11, 2001. This is a generation that filters, sorts, prioritizes, eliminates and processes more marketing messages than just about any other population group in existence.
“And whether you like it or not, Generation Y represents the future of philanthropy. … And just like the boomers, who redefined the ‘hot brands’ on the commercial side, Generation Y will be redefining their perceptions of the charitable landscape in the near future.”
FS: How do you cultivate Gen Y’ers as donors?
KM: “In order to cultivate this new generation of potential donors, it’s key to go where the action is. What’s important about Generation Y is that they are not a ‘me too’ segment. Generation Y’ers are independent thinkers who cast an irreverence toward those mass-marketing messages.
“You can reach the Generation Y’ers by tapping into the right media mix, which includes MTV, niche cable stations, radio and print vehicles, social events, clubs, extreme-sports venues, in-person communications and, above all, the Web.
“Generation Y is a multicultural group, and a significant percentage come from divorced or single-parent homes. To appeal to this segment, there are several key strategies.
1. Personalize the message by ensuring that the content is relevant. Avoid personal elements that are gratuitous.
2. Prioritize your [e-mail and direct-mail] messages so that … your communication and your call to action ‘are above the fold.’
3. Think globally. Generation Y’ers are one of the first population segments that grew up with instantaneous access to news around the world. In general, they are keenly interested in global events and consequences.
4. Many of the Generation Y’ers have been encouraged to succeed in all aspects of their lives. Those charities that associate philanthropic giving with success, in terms of producing tangible results and a feeling of accomplishment, may have an advantage.”
FS: How does Generation Y differ from other donor segments? How is it the same?
KM: “Generation Y’ers tend to be influenced most by their peers. One strategy to elicit interest is to highlight [their] peers who have taken a leadership role within your organization.
“Look at the signer of your direct-mail letter. Is it relevant to this age group and, more importantly, is it relevant to the peer-group influence?
“Evaluate grassroots opportunities to communicate involvement. The Lance Armstrong [Foundation’s Live Strong] yellow bracelet is an effective example of garnering local involvement. The combination of Web, word of mouth, celebrity endorsement, peer influence and point of purchase at retail [locations] are all factors that helped fuel the demand for 30 million bracelets … and counting.”