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GENERATIONS: How to Excite and Engage the Millennial Generation to Join Your Nonprofit Association

mattjan13Next week I present at The Professionals Collaborative (TPC) January meeting on how to excite, engage and motivate the millennial generation specifically in an association/non-profit world.  This is a group of organizations that represent many of the associations or non-profits in the workplace development field.  It being a new year, I thought it would be helpful to address some of the challenges that still remain when figuring out how best to utilize the talents and enthusiasm of this younger generation. This of course is especially relevant if we look at the non-profit, fundraising and professional associations’ world – organizations that tend to lack the millennial presence.

Today’s young professionals, comprised of the millennial generation (1980-2001), is one captivated by technology, social media and the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, filtered photography and pinning things on Pinterest.  This generation, ranging between 20-35, is a very powerful and influential group as they represent about 70 million people, and yet can come across as narcissistic, privileged and fickle at times. Known for their altruism and sense of service, community and an unrelenting positive outlook, millennials are actually a perfect match for your non-profit or professional association.

1347229105217.cachedKeys ways to excite and engage them:

1 – Build an association worth believing in:  the millennial generation is all about a more altruistic, transparent world.  They earnestly believe in the idea of bettering the world through service and action.  We’ve seen this manifest itself with the Obama campaign, KOBY2012 and relief efforts for this decade’s worst storms.  Surprisingly, this really isn’t a millennial thing.  Time and time again, as I work with non-profits or volunteer organizations, they lack a solid mission (why are we here), vision (where are we going), values (what do we believe in) and a strategic plan to move forward.  It isn’t necessarily a millennial thing in terms of worthwhile expectations for organizations to have these key areas defined.  It is important to realize, however, that this generation won’t stay with organizations that don’t have these defined.  And, if you don’t have your mission, culture and purpose defined, you’ll be lacking the crucial 70 million millennials that could be part of your organization. Millennials like to be inspired and often act in the moment of that inspiration (42% did this) as reported in the Millennial Impact Report 2012.

2 – Increase your communication:  Millennials need constant engagement, real-time updates and they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  Begin by increasing the output of your communication through the many different channels available:

–          Send one email per month to start.  *47% of millennials prefer to obtain information about nonprofits via emails.

–          Start blogging/Facebooking/Tweeting/Instagraming  more frequently. *67% of millennials have interacted with a nonprofit on Facebook and *55% prefer Facebook or Twitter as an information source.

–          Not sure what to say?  Try these action items to get started on your social media presence: highlight an outstanding donor, volunteer, or professional; show how an event, donation, or person directly impacts your mission; give your non-profit a face by having staff write posts; share news related to your cause such as stories in the field.

–          Optimize your website by converting to a web 2.0 look, tone and feel.  Focus your redevelopment efforts on showing how to get involved, how to donate, volunteer opportunities, upcoming calendar events, featuring the mission and culture of the organization, sponsorship opportunities.  *65% of millennials prefer to learn about associations and non-profits via a website with over 85% turning to the ‘About Us’ page to learn more about the organization’s mission on their first visit.  Make sure your About Us page is the best it can be.

–          Involve millennials every step along the way.  Don’t get to the finish line of all the action items above and not have consulted a single millennial.  Involve them and use their talents to bring more millennials in.

* Hubspot’s Engaging Younger Donors Online with Inbound Marketing

3 – Embrace the CAMP method of motivating the millennials.  CAMP, a New Directions acronym, comes from the theories of motivational expert Fredrick Herzberg and stands for Competency, Autonomy, Meaningfulness and Progress.  As an association, non-profit or fundraising organization, work on these areas to create a more engaged and dedicated community that will attract the millennial:

–          Provide educational opportunities needed to build competency by setting up opportunities to learn, the ability to attend conferences, and by offering cross-mentoring programs;

–          Allow the autonomy that leverages strengths such as the permission to design catchy marketing material or a new website, use social media to promote your association, or allowing members to engage with people at conventions as your brand ambassadors;

–          Describe why you exist, build an altruistic culture, and get them to believe in your cause by making it mean something to them.  Make their contributions meaningful too by using their skills and talents – and stay away from giving “busy work.”  A note here on managing your time: One area that non-profits and associations will have to work on is time and how long it seems to take to get things moving.  The millennials will become frustrated with a 2 hour process when they know they can do it in 20 minutes.  Allow them to help you speed up your processes by introducing you to new theories, technologies and collaborative methods;

–          Show them progress – don’t create a “junior board” like some sort of holiday party kids’ table. Once they’ve earned it give them a strategic seat along with your other members at important meetings, events or strategic planning retreats.

Why You Matter to Millennials

More than one third of millennials plan to look for new opportunities in their field within the next year according to a Robert Half report.  Likewise, the number one post-recession career plan for millennials is to enhance their skill set.  With little to no leadership or growth opportunities directly available for millennials at their workplaces , they should look to associations and non-profits like yours to help fill their backpacks  with the necessary skills and talents to shine at their next interview or promotion meeting.  Demonstrate to them how being a part of your organization gives them skills in strategic thinking, public speaking, teaming, creativity, educational growth, diverse workplaces, and leadership proficiency.

Equally, you can also provide the mentorship, networking and experience that their data-entry job won’t allow them yet.  You’re like the weekend parent that allows millennials to have the fun and candy their day-to-day parent won’t give them.  Help them escape the dull cubicle in which they’re “earning their stripes” by providing a gateway towards professional development.  Capitalize on the freedoms you have as associations and promote your strengths to the millennial generation.

“75% of Millennials donated to charity in 2011, but they gave smaller amounts, under $100 (58%). They are generous souls, though, and are quite willing to fundraise for you (71% have) by tapping their family and friends. Plus they volunteer (63% have and 41% plan to do more). Millennials, especially those just out of college, are worried about their student debt, are feeling lost in a sea of job seekers in a down job market, and may be underemployed. Small donations might turn into bigger ones later so don’t turn up your nose at them,” wrote Joanne Fritz in her article Report Confirms Why Millennials Are Crucial To Future of Nonprofits which I think is a very real and candid snapshot of where this generation is and where you can come along beside them and help nurture their maturity.

Most importantly, no one likes to be talked down to.  Treat this new generation of workers with respect and value and they will provide you with decades of engagement, fun and membership.


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