Millennials: The New Majority
"How do I get the new majority (Millennials) hyped on my peer-to-peer event?"
Frustrated on this front? You are not alone. In last week’s blog, I wrote about "Cracking the Millennial Code." Three defining characteristics of Millennials—individualism, digital presence and a desire for charitable participation—combine to make peer-to-peer a particularly effective way to access their resources and energy. But as many of us have experienced firsthand, that can be easier said than done.
To get help, I asked Vickie LoBello, new to my staff and qualified through her work with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, as vice president of Relay in California, and St. Baldrick’s Foundation, as chief development officer. Here’s her take:
While many nonprofit peer-to-peer programs have been able to connect with the Millennial audience based on school or institution structures, the audience often does not transition to post-academia participation. Why is that?
Here’s why those institutions foster participation:
- The opportunity to lead and grow skills.
- The opportunity to make decisions.
- The events and the institution have the same target audience.
Our challenge is keeping students engaged after they graduate and move on to a professional and family life of their own.
Volunteers new to non-academic life are focused on beginning their careers and are not as well-connected to a new peer group. And, they are keeping up with their old peer group digitally, without the chance for on-the-ground interaction, like serving as a leadership volunteer or team captain.
Additionally, even if they carry their passion for your cause to their new life, getting involved at the community level can feel like a shoe that is three sizes too small. These students were big fish before transitioning to their community, which in many cases is an urban environment. Now they are in the ocean and the ways to differentiate themselves are more limited. Even though it is difficult to reach them, the nonprofit sector can help these potential volunteers be more connected in their community through their leadership in fundraising for your organization.
I believe do-it-yourself fundraising has many elements that are attractive to the Millennial audience leaving academia. The strongest DIY programs have elements of goal and project fundraising, clear timelines for implementation, messaging and opportunities that allow them to connect online with their peer group, and virtual support from staff. Take, as an example, Children’s Miracle Network Extra Life. This peer-to-peer fundraising experience is served up online, connecting peers digitally. Extra Life also offers its constituents leadership opportunities via its Guild system, volunteer leaders who influence the system. That leadership opportunity is delivered primarily online, with a few on-the-ground opportunities.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge taught us that peer-to-peer fundraising can be viral. While this type of viral effect is rare, it is reproducible on a smaller scale. As we continue to grow DIY, looking for areas where virtual engagement can work will aid in attracting the Millennial audience. While this will not necessarily connect them to a new network in their current community, it is a way for them to engage with their collegiate friends, after college.
Millennials want to know how their efforts or their donations are changing the world. This is a tough nut to crack for some nonprofits which struggle to define unmet need and demonstrate meeting need. If your organization spends a great deal on a specific mission element, you can generate interest and fund that specific mission element with peer-to-peer by building the campaign around it.
As a parent of two Millennials and a nonprofit professional who has had the opportunity to work with volunteers and staff from this group, I can tell you that they are worthy of our efforts. Additionally, like other groups before, they want to be seen as individuals, rather than the aggregate, and the key to success is building relationships with individual leaders. We can all learn new things in working with the new majority.
I like working with smart people, like Vickie LoBello. They make blogging fun (and easy).
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.