Millennials, understandably, are the source of much anxiety for nonprofits. Most organizations agree that reaching them is critical—Millennials are projected to soon overtake Baby Boomers as the largest living generation—but there remain more questions than answers. How do you connect with them? What makes them tick? How do they give? Are they worth all the trouble?
The latest study to tackle those questions, "#GivingTuesday 2015: Attracting Millennial Donors," comes from Achieve, an Indianapolis-based research and creative agency. The study examined the Giving Tuesday strategies of nine nonprofits to provide a cross-section of organizations' Millennial engagement efforts and determine Millennials' Giving Tuesday habits. While the organizations varied in size and sector, their approaches were similar: multichannel promotion involving their websites, email and social media accounts. Some supplemented their efforts with direct mail, while others—primarily those with donor-bases made up mostly of Millennials—used peer-to-peer and other grassroots methods.
Some of the major findings:
Planning ahead. Seven of the nine organizations waited until November to launch their Giving Tuesday campaigns. Camp Kesem, one of the two organizations that started earlier, began promoting Giving Tuesday in its September and October newsletters, as well as its October emails, and raised more than four times its $100,000 goal. The nonprofit also reported that 85 percent of its Giving Tuesday donors were Millennials—by the far the most of the organizations studied. Rutgers University Foundation, which more than doubled its $500,000 Giving Tuesday goal, did the bulk of its promotion in November, but launched a peer-to-peer/ambassador program called Scarlet Voice in September, using the online platform to spread information about the organization's Giving Tuesday plans.
"The earlier your organization can determine your strategy, timeline, tactics and mediums, the more time you’ll have to engage your audience in your cause—with the ultimate goal of turning interested constituents into active and involved donors," the study found. "But don’t just rely on typical methods of communication (i.e. direct mail, social media or email) to attract Millennials, as this evaluation has shown that these methods have not shown higher than average response rates with non-Millennial organizations. Get creative with events, incentives and networking prior to #GivingTuesday to build up the excitement to this day."
Social media. All nine nonprofits used Facebook for their Giving Tuesday outreach, while eight used Twitter and five used Instagram. Of the four organizations that used all three social media channels, three were schools: University of North Carolina (UNC), Rutgers University Foundation and Otterbein University. UNC also relied heavily on Snapchat, to which the organization credited much of its success with younger donors—of its 933 Giving Tuesday donors, 269 were Millennials. Rutgers University Foundation reported 2 million impressions for its #RUGivingDay hashtag and reach of around 700,000. The organization noted that on a typical day, a post to its alumni page reaches 1,000 people and a post to the Rutgers University Foundation page reaches 250.
Still, the study cautioned against over-reliance on digital channels. "Simply posting from an organization’s social media accounts, however, isn’t enough to engage this generation," according to the report. "As reports from research partners have shown, social media activity doesn’t equal engaged Millennials—and though people in general are giving on #GivingTuesday, Millennials aren’t the majority of them with organizations whose audiences lie outside the generation (ex. organizations not made up of or led by students)."
Going beyond digital. While social media, email, e-newsletters and other digital channels played a major part in all nine organizations' Giving Tuesday efforts, the nonprofits that had the most success supplemented their online strategies with more "in-person" means. Rutgers University Foundation ran a pair of campus engagement events. Camp Kesem used its "#GivingTuesday Army" to encourage alumni to raise various amounts from their peers. College Mentors for Kids set up a personal fundraising page for each student. UNC hosted multiple events and leaned on campus organizations to build peer-to-peer reach. All four of those organizations beat their Giving Tuesday goals by at least 63 percent, and all four reported higher levels of Millennial engagement than the other five organizations studied.
"#GivingTuesday can be a successful day of giving, but to engage Millennial donors, organizations need to expand their tactics and approaches to more than just digital (Web/email) and social means of communication," the report concluded. "The research partners that were most effective in their Millennial engagement strategies are the ones that strategically incorporated grassroots efforts—peer-to-peer or personal challenges, events, ambassadors, incentives, etc.—alongside their online and social media efforts."
Download the full study here.