Millennials Shmillenials: Working Together for One Cause
There have always been Millennials.
We’ve known them by other names of course. Explorers. Inventors. Witches. Heretics. Revolutionaries. As generations rise and ebb, the younger generation has consistently challenged the values and mores of their elders. And, most of the time, immense progress was achieved—revolutions and movements. But other times, it was a reversion to insularity.
Recently, I was discussing philanthropic trends with a young rep from a college nonprofit, who opened the conversation by saying, "Well, I’m a Millennial, and ..." (cue the fingernails on chalkboard.)
And I was like, “Slow down. Stop right there.”
People, what are we doing to the next generation?
We’ve fixed such a strong label and identity upon them, they now speak about themselves in third person! As if every person who was born after 1984 now fits into this statistic of Millennials. And her attitude conveyed this adherence to the label: "Yeah, I’m a Millennial and I’m fine with being a product of a statistic. And I’m not interested in giving to charity because of legacy gifts, or in giving for the sake of purely giving. Because I want a return on my investment. I want immediate impact."
What Millennials have yet to realize is that this identity they have adopted so readily is a limitation. And the fact that we, as nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, go along with it is even worse. We’re sitting here scratching our heads, trying to dissect these alien creatures and figure out what makes them give.
Instead of trying to figure how to inspire Millennials to invest, and be invested, in our cause, we have to first realize no one—not even Millennials (no matter how much they love their smartphones)—lives in a bubble. What we should be asking ourselves is what environments Millennials gravitate toward, and which causes inspire them and why?
To truly inspire anyone to give, but especially Millennials, we can no longer isolate them. Rather, we must bring them into the same room with us old folks (well, technically I’m a Millennial, born in 1985. Yay, I made it!), who actually watched He-Man before it was on YouTube.
A teenager will be inspired to give to a disaster relief fund if he actually meets a survivor. Alternatively, a budding entrepreneur who is passionate about the next Pencils of Promise, will mobilize more established business leaders when they see how she dedicates what little extra cash she has—after student loans and rent—to give to a charity she believes in.
It’s only when we work together, that we see how our gifts can be used as leverage to motivate others to give, which in turn creates that immediate impact Millennials so desperately seek.
It is not about isolating this group of people under a microscope to determine what makes them tick. It is about creating opportunities for investment that will generate interdependency. If a young graphic designer, living in a one-room apartment in Williamsburg, knows that his hard-earned $100 will inspire a major philanthropist to contribute $1 million, he will be more excited to get on board.
Impact is not achieved by one person, one Millennial or one donation alone. Impact happens when you tap into the collective power of your donors. When we stop treating Millennials as an isolated entity and unite them with givers of all levels and sizes, we, in turn, empower them to actualize that long sought-after impact—even on a $50 donation. Because with the strength in numbers of tens of thousands of Millennials giving just $50, the impact is both unparallelled and accessible.
I see this dynamic every single day in my work in crowdsourced fundraising. Matchers are excited to sponsor a campaign because they know their generosity will rally other, new givers. And smaller contributors, inspired by the belief of the matchers in the value of his or her dollar, are enthused by the opportunity for greater impact that the matchers enable for them.
So, the next time you’re hosting a rooftop wine and cheese party, bring everyone together—the young and the young at heart, the veteran, the survivor, the struggling artist and the successful real estate mogul. See what’s possible when you create an environment of interdependency—each of us working together for one cause. Because all of us are explorers, inventors, witches, heretics and revolutionaries.
And we need each other.
Moshe Hecht, winner of the 2017 NonProfit PRO Technology Professional of the Year, is a philanthropy futurist, public speaker and chief innovation officer of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform and consulting company that has helped 3,000 organizations raise over $700 million.
Moshe's passion lies at the intersection of technology and charitable giving. When Moshe is not at the office, he is writing music and enjoying downtime with his wife and three redheaded children.