I recently came across an announcement that Do Something, an organization missioned to empower teens to make a difference in their communities, is accepting applications for its annual Do Something Awards. Bulleted at the top of the announcement were three questions: "Have you identified a social problem and done something about it? Have you created measurable change that has tangibly improved the lives of people in your community? Are you 25 or under?"
Wow! "How is Do Something getting youngsters — a group elusive to most nonprofits — to do anything, let alone inspiring them to tackle social issues in such a hands-on way?" I thought.
I asked Melanie Stevenson, who handles community outreach for Do Something, this and other questions to elicit some tips for other organizations looking to engage this demographic. Here, her responses:
FundRaising Success: What is the mission of your organization?
Melanie Stevenson: Do Something believes teenagers have the power to make a difference. Our mission is to inspire, support and celebrate a generation of doers: teenagers who see the need to do something, believe in their ability to get it done, and then take action. At dosomething.org we provide the tools and resources young people need to convert their energy and ideas into positive action.
FS: What is the primary demographic that you work to engage?
MS: Our demographic is young people (25 and under) in the U.S. and Canada. The majority of our users are between 13 and 17 years old.
FS: What are some of the strategies that you use to engage them?
MS: Some of the strategies we use to make teens aware of our resources and programs are:
- We are where teens are. We reach out to teens directly, not to their parents or teachers. We reach them on the Internet at www.dosomething.org, Facebook and MySpace, on their cell phones through our text-to-volunteer program, on ChannelOne.com — a news broadcast for middle- and high-school students.
- We understand teens. We know that they are very busy and have diverse interests and passions. At Do Something we provide customizable opportunities to take action. Our action matrix allows you to select your cause, how much time you have, who you want to work with and where, and creates a menu of action ideas to choose from. Our programs provide a variety of ways to get involved. You can donate your jeans to homeless teens through our Teens for Jeans campaign. You can start a Do Something Club with five of your friends to make action part of your routine. You can apply for a Do Something grant to fund your own project idea. Whatever action you're ready to take, we have the resources to help you take the next step.
- We trust teens. Do Something is the only organization to give money directly to youth under 18. Our Do Something clubs program doesn't require an adult advisor or mentor. Teens have what it takes to lead right now, no adults required.