The Future of Your Nonprofit May Depend on Cultivating Millennials Now: 5 Steps to Consider in Your Development Plan

The Future of Your Nonprofit May Depend on Cultivating Millennials Now: 5 Steps to Consider in Your Development Plan

August 3, 2016

Read our guest post below from Swell Fundraising.

According to Morgan Stanley, the thoroughly-researched and well-documented millennial generation will benefit from the largest transfer of wealth in history. Have we ever heard and tried to understand so much about a generation? For nonprofit directors, understanding this generation is essential to the long-term health of your organization. 

Here are 5 steps you can take today to move your organization forward.

  1. Board Development: Explain this transfer of wealth to your board or Development Committee. Propose that your organization add millennial cultivation as an additional measure of success, for two reasons. (1) Things that are measured get done; (2) More importantly, if measured, the work will be more valued by board members.  
  2. Leverage Current Activities: Many nonprofits create a Junior Board, a new event, or new giving level specifically for younger donors. However, we all know that time is scarce. If possible, try not to ‘create’, but rather consider what you are already doing and seek ways to leverage it. Examples include:  (1) Invite younger members to the board (rather than creating an entirely new group) and put them on your development committee; (2) Use your event to reach new donors by adding innovative tools (like Swell), updating the style/theme of the event, honoring young philanthropists — anything that helps to shift the event toward younger donors; or (3) Interact and network with millennial activities/groups on social media.
  3. Value Volunteer Time: Millennials value the gift of time and money equally while many nonprofits often do not. We recommend creating opportunities for young donors to volunteer their time with organizations but only if the organization is prepared to prominently recognize and thank them for their time. Consider sending a handwritten note (millennials can be surprisingly old-school) and elevating the value of that time. Without proper thanks for time donated, organizations may damage this donor relationship before it’s even begun. 
  4. Connect:  Millennial donors are ALL about their friends. This is attributable to several factors including social networking. It’s unlikely that a millennial donor will engage with your nonprofit and remain engaged if his/her friends do not. Establish mechanisms in your organizations for young people to stay connected to your organization and each other, i.e. small giving circles, volunteer groups (‘tribes’) or event tables. Review your activity and create ways for young people to connect with a group. Social media is a powerful tool in reinforcing these groups when used for posting pictures, tagging groups of people and creating event pages.
  5. Think Big (and Small): Millennial donors want to change the world. As nonprofits tackle society’s most intractable problems, incremental or nonexistent improvement may weigh on their optimism. Nonprofits need to demonstrate how they changed the world for those served or highlight the path (even if long) to real change. Millennial donors will respond to tangible projects with visible and often short term results.  

Just as younger voters are challenging the political system, they will also push the philanthropic sector. No longer will a donor be impressed by an organization’s 50-year history or heavy-weight board. They want to be engaged on a deeper level, with both their time and their money. Cultivating them now will impact your bottom line in the long run.

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