Are We Ready for These Young Kids?
We all know I'm an infographic junkie — I just love them. Send me an e-mail with one in it and you'll have me hooked. But, recently I read an article that was so interesting to me, I almost never made it to the infographic before I started noodling what this really means for us as marketers and fundraisers.
The article is The Hyperconnected Life, and it is talking about teens and young adults and how they use technology. Also within the article is a link to the report Teens and Technology 2013, which was done through research by Pew's Internet & American Life Project. And, of course, there's an infographic.
Now, I realize our industry is no stranger to trying to understand the younger generation. And no one is debating that many of our donors are from the older generations. But we also know that those donors are aging and all nonprofits are focused on trying to engage individuals along the entire lifecycle. Young adults might not have much money, but they have time for volunteering and participating, and they also have a lot of friends — meaning their networking reach can be extensive.
What's interesting is that they are not like their parents. So, while they may be introduced to nonprofit giving and volunteering through their parents and family activities, they are wired (forgive the pun) totally differently.
Here are some key findings in the report and some thoughts that came to my mind. Of course, it's not surprising how "connected" they are for their age: 80 percent own a computer, 78 percent a cellphone, and 37 percent own a smartphone. But the real question is how this affects their view of life, how they interact, etc. In fact, in the report from Pew it seems that the experts are split as to whether this level of connectivity is positive or negative.
This hyperconnectivity is:
- creating users who are adept at finding answers to deep questions efficiently
- creating quick-acting multitaskers
- allowing users to learn more information quickly
- encouraging users to count on the Internet as their external brain
- allowllng future generations to transform things like education
- Are developing a need for instant gratification
- Lack deep-thinking capabilities
- Lack face-to-face social skills
- Are becoming shallow consumers of information
- Are settling for quick choices, due to a lack of patience
Some of the findings are not necessarily a surprise, but let's stop and think through what this means for us as marketers to these people. Forget what is positive vs. negative because all of these issues are a reality when it comes to how we are going to engage and motivate them to get involved.
Efficiency, speed, instant gratification
If you are someone out there with four-page letters in the mail or a website that requires multiple clicks to actually get to the meat of things, you need to be nervous. But those are the easy observations.
This generation is not willing to wait around for much. What this means to us is that we've got to make our case quickly and in a way that appeals to them. We also know from other studies that the younger generations are somewhat skeptical and are going to require detailed information around operations, financial accountability and mission progress to make a decision to support a charity. So, the challenge with this younger group will be how we provide the right level of detail around the key topics in an efficient way.
And, while this is not something that is studied yet, one could easily imagine this group associating the inability to access information in digital form and quickly with not just frustration but a lack of trust. Whether it is lack of patience or shallowness, it doesn't really matter because what is clear is that it will have a negative impact on their desire and ultimate decision to engage with a brand.
Face-to-face social skills
As the mother of an 8-year-old, part of me is not surprised to hear that today's teenagers lack face-to-face social skills. Everyone says that about teenagers! But, what is interesting is how this could affect many of the community-engagement events with charities across the country.
Today's charities are engaging kids through fundraisers in elementary school, middle grades and high school. What this means is that we need to leverage the significant network of peers of this age group but not force today's young adults into our face-to-face model. Yes, we want them to eventually show up to a track, walking course or some other specific location, but we also know the process of fundraising and cementing strong commitment to fundraising for an event starts long before the actual day of the event.
But, it's not as simple as just leveraging the digital space for the event. All the other elements of their expectations must be met. They need to get to information on the events quickly, and they need to find the right level of detail.
Additionally, this generation is going to need a different approach to recognition. As an example, they are not going to be willing to wait until the day of the event to find out about their progress or their ranking in the fundraising competition. They are well connected, so they expect everything about how the nonprofit runs the event to be digitally connected — not to mention accurate to the minute. Simply put, this is how they run their lives, so why would they expect a business or organization to be any different?
There's a lot to think about. We have to keep it in perspective. Are these literally tomorrow's donors? No. But, are they a consumer group that will enter our priority space in the next five to 10 years? Yes. It's not all bad; in fact the article does a great job of pointing out how we, as parents, teachers and even brands can still connect with this hyperconnected group of future constituents.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.