Money isn’t motivating, meaning is.
Many charitable organizations list a top fundraising challenge as reaching a younger audience of donors to solicit larger donations. Emphasizing this as the main challenge indicates an underlying misunderstanding: many Millennials’ and Gen X’ers’ riches lie in their drive to make the world a better place through meaningful work. Some see throwing money at the issue as a part of the issue itself. They give their time from a place of inspiration, not obligation.
They’ve been fed mantras from birth that they’re special, talented, unique, they can do anything they want to if they set their mind to it, they have the power to change the world with their ideas etc. And for the most part, they believe it.
If charities are to thrive during shift in generational values from money to meaning, they’ll need to co-create a social sector, collaborating with 20-somethings, social enterprises and for-profit businesses where their innovation and education will be appreciated for its change-making power.
For profit trend to non-profit impact
Right now in North America, 20-somethings have the most buying power/ disposable income and many recognize that each dollar spent is a vote supporting the companies from whom they buy. They are constantly bombarded with solicitations to give their time, money, care, etc. In the for-profit sector, we are witnessing accelerating trends for businesses to invest a considerable amount of profit into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), employee volunteering programs, sponsorships, etc. It’s a way for companies to give back to their communities and improve culture, but it also differentiates, cuts through the noise, and gives 20-somethings a reason to support them with their dollar.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
Similarly to companies with CSR programs, your organization will reach these younger generations through powerful cause marketing. The key is to appeal to their minds and will to act. Here are 5 recommendations for how to make marketing to Millennials and Gen X’ers successful.
- Be transparent – The Google generation, these younger groups have deeply ingrained habits to access to online information before making a choice. They want to understand how their contribution translates to social impact, before they contribute. Whether it’s volunteering, donating, or spreading the word, they look before they leap.
- Be a thought leader – Create and promote reflective, useful, and targeted content that will resonate with 20-somethings. This will present your organization as knowledgeable and will differentiate your brand from another organization fighting a similar issue or providing a similar service. This leadership differentiation is key to gaining the loyalty of Millennials and GenX’ers.
- Have a strong recurring gifts program – Millennials and GenX’ers are used to paying for things in subscriptions and monthly payment plans. They are also more likely to donate in smaller amounts over longer periods of time. Target your recurring gifts program to this demographic to help engage them in a donation method they can support.
- Allow volunteers to easily contribute – They want to give their time, but they don’t want it to be hard or too big of a commitment. Set up an easy form for volunteers to sign up online that asks their interests, skills, and level of commitment. Removing barriers to volunteer will improve your ability reach these motivated individuals who may not have time to navigate a confusing and laborious sign-up process.
- Encourage steps for peer to peer fundraising – According to the 2015 Millenial Impact Report, peers and direct co-workers are the most likely individuals to influence Millennials to participate in giving. Organizations like Movember capitalize on the social validation and activities these generations seek. Charity:Water is a great example of an organization that is currently doing this, well. Check out their website for ideas.
- Bold, Branding to match the for-profit sector – All nonprofits have to compete with the for-profit sector for donations. They can’t create a compelling reason for why Millenial’s or GenX’ers should give $8 monthly, instead of having a Netflix account, if their brand can’t compete with powerful corporations like Netflix. Of course Netflix has a much larger marketing budget, but your brand is what gives at-a-glance credibility to this age group that expects branding to be on-point. If it isn’t, they will be more wary of your organization and less likely to give.
If you reach their hearts, you may get money out of sympathy. If you reach their minds, you’ll connect with their intellectual and deep desire to be a part of something bigger that is making a difference. That’s the money-maker. Investing in inviting the 20-somethings to the conversation for how the money and time should be used will transform the traditional paradigms we subscribe to when envisioning social impact.
A special thank you to Gillian Shelley, Phil Communication’s intern, for her contribution to this article.
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