Millennials: They’re Coming and We Really Aren’t Ready
Are you tired of articles, blogs and webinars about Millennials? Me too—but the reality is Millennials really are going to shift the marketplace, and for nonprofits, this will be a large shift.
I'm not talking about message changes. I’m talking about real changes—new offers, new strategies, etc. Take a glance at some statistics below to how you should be thinking through things differently.
The Millennial generation is the biggest in U.S. history—even bigger than the Baby Boomers. There are 77 million Baby Boomers, 62 million Generation Xers and 92 million Millennials. Almost 49 million Millennials already were 25 to 36 years old last year (2015).
The reason they soon will have the largest buying power is because of the sheer size of the group and that many already are working. But what will create the largest shifts is how they think (at work and at home) and how they want to communicate.
Millennials are different, and their views will impact the economy. Jeremy Rifkin, author and economist, said in the infographic, "Millennials Coming of Age," “They’re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what's being called a ‘sharing economy.’ In 25 years, car sharing will be the norm and car ownership an anomaly.”
How they invest their money is very different than other generations. It’s not just about quality, it’s not just about associating with a “strong brand”—it’s about if there is a return on their investments. They consider their investments to be their time, their connections and their money. To get them involved, you are going to need to talk to them about how there is a return on their involvement, and how that matches up with what matters to them and what they want to accomplish in life.
One in three Millennials turn to their social networks when making decisions—and their social networks are large. Compare that to Gen X, which has less than one in five individuals turning to their social networks when making a purchase decision.
As nonprofits, there is a tendency to want to focus on the growth of our own social networks and getting people to come to us. In reality, the power of the Millennials’ network is much greater than our own power. We need to be doing things that attract Millennials to share our content and promote our information. Perhaps the best statement I’ve seen on this is came from Randy Hawthorne:
“Don’t use social media to sell your organization—use it to further your cause. Tell stories. Post pictures. Feature the people who’ve benefited from your services. Show where your organization’s money goes and how your donors’ gifts make a difference. If you can get the Millennials to fall in love with your cause and become social media brand evangelists for you, you can unleash a potential firestorm of influence.”
Millennials are considered to be the first generation of “digital natives,” and it influences every aspect of their lives. This is not a surprise to anyone—this fact has been trumpeted for years about this generation. Simply put (and I know I’m a broken record in my blogs about this), if your offers are not digitally reflected and accessible for a great experience on mobile devices, you are going to have trouble connecting with this group.
It is not about the organization, it is about what Millennials want to accomplish in life and how your organization can help them achieve their goals, according to Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve and researcher for The Millennial Impact. When it comes to charitable involvement, “What motivates Millennials is a desire to affect their cause through your organization with their friends,” he said.
This really impacts how we typically message our offers. Even with Baby Boomers, the charity and its mission is the primary focus, and it is about connecting the organization to the person. To message Millennials, you have to connect with them and determine how you fit into their lives. If you don’t think this is really an issue for your charity, grab two to three of your emails, read them and determine if your message really accomplishes this.
More so than other generations, what happens at work influences Millennials' participation with charities—the closer the connection at the same staff level (versus up the chain of command), the stronger the influence on the Millennial. Approximately 27 percent of Millennial employees said they are more likely to donate to a cause if their supervisors do, while 46 percent of Millennials are likely to donate if a co-worker asks them to. Interestingly, only 21 percent of Millennial employees said they are more likely to make a donation if the CEO or a top-ranking executive asks them to.
For Millennials, it is about what their social, work and friend networks are doing that is most important. Most nonprofits have “workplace giving” staff who focus on this area and most nonprofits community special events.
Millennials are a different kind of employee. They are a different kind of “event donor, participant and volunteer.” They are motivated differently, and nonprofits are going to have to communicate differently. Donating is something that happens, but you will need to involve them in your mission before asking for donations.
However, once they are involved in a fundraising initiative, nonprofits can leverage the fact that they also are very competitive. They are motivated to meet specific goals and levels compared to other teammates or teams. But, in the end, information that motivates the older generations (pie charts, annual reports, etc.) is not going to create the connection with Millennials. Again, you need to insert yourself into their life missions—not invite them to come to yours. Want them to come to an event? Then tell them how this is a part of helping them achieve their life goals.
Millennials already are donating—84 percent said they made a donation in 2014. Of the Millennials who indicated they did not donate through their company-sanctioned events, 78 percent said they donated to a charity outside of where their companies promote support.
While their motivations to participate in company-sponsored/sanctioned events or company-sponsored charities are like some of the older generations (i.e. the feeling of it being required), the secret to getting continued support is to continue showing them their investments of time and money mean something.
For the older generations, many nonprofit programs focus on showing how the money is spent, where the money goes and how the mission is being accomplished through donor dollars. For Millennials, it is at a personal level. They want a close dialog about their personal involvements and what those specific involvements are doing within the organization.
This probably is the most complex of their requirements because they want deeper connections to the progress than any other generation. They want to know specifically what child, specifically where the water/food/medicine is going to be delivered, specifically what research will be funded, specifically where the meals are being provided and served to the homeless, etc.
There’s a lot in this post, but that matches up perfectly with the fact that there are a lot of Millennials, and they really are going to force some changes in how we market.
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.