By Jeremy Slessor, millennial
There is a murderous mob on the loose! An unstoppable, inevitable, group who are constantly in the news for their senseless murders. This demographic is seemingly killing industries and trends at random. If the non-profit industry is not careful, they could be the next arbitrary target of this cabal. No, not cancel culture – although maybe.
Who are they? Millennials.
No really! Look it up. A quick Google will yield some obvious, obscure, obtuse and often comical results on the subject. Here are just some of the examples of the Millennial industrial murder spree:
The disastrous mix of the Millennials and the year that was 2020 will likely be the final nail in the coffin for some of the above industries, products or trends. However, enough shade. It is time to highlight our Millennial cabal! Despite their faults, they have, and will continue to, overcome tremendous obstacles.
What does this mean for fundraising?
Non-profit friends, it’s ok – you’re not in jeopardy. Literally the opposite. If you look above you will see a few subtle and remarkable, things: for example, the decline in consumption of beer, carbonated drinks, mayonnaise, processed cheeses, canned tuna, fabric softener, etc. These are either unhealthy, unsustainable, or environmentally harmful. Would this not count as a marginal win for our fellow non-profit organizations with these interests in mind?
Furthermore, where Millennials are blamed for killing cable TV, taxis, travel, chain restaurants, and marriage, there is literally an app for that. (Perhaps not marriage, but certainly dating and relationships.). Millennials look to apps to find new people, hotels, food, transportation, and entertainment. Regardless, these are all examples of old establishment systems that are due for reinvention or reimagination, but not necessarily a refocus of their priorities. Life is nothing if not change, and often change leads to improvement!
Many of them had finished or were finishing their education just as the market collapsed in 2008, forever altering the path they would follow for the rest of their lives--all the while being financially crippled by debt. A decade later, Millennials would make up the majority share of the workforce and, with inflation, making significantly less money than their parents. Shortly after arriving at this newfound stability, they are now faced with more uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19, the impacts of which are still yet to be fully felt.
Their fight is never ending: who else is more responsible for challenging old guard views on race, identity, equality, or class? Read the news! It is Millennials who are simultaneously fighting for their lives and for broader societal changes.
Engaging the “avocado toast” generation
While they do not have the financial liquidity of older generations, they are known to care deeply about the things that matter to them most. Millennials give in many ways that are different from their generational predecessors. Whether they’re lending spare computational resources in order to crowdsource research a cure for diseases, developing apps that allow them give in new ways or using their time and available resources by volunteering.
If nothing else, we need to change how we engage with this audience and meet them where they want to be met. Why can’t more non-profit organization create an app and be digitally available for this group of people? We’re almost there now: there are several examples of organizations that have an app for their events that allow participants to solicit donations, send emails or text messages to contacts on their phones, or track their fundraising progress.
Dream for a moment though, and ask yourself a few questions. How are you engaging with this audience now? Is it the most effective way to reach them? Instead, ask the questions the other way around: How do Millennials engage with your organization right now? How can you maximize your data and increase your interactions with them? You have an audience with a known reputation for killing industries, but they should be better known for how they help to transform industries into more efficient and effective versions of themselves.
Plan for the long-term
Whether or not your organization can compete for Millennial attention might be a bit of a post-modern dilemma. Soon they will be your majority source of fundraising revenue. Soon they will be your loudest voices for the advocacy of your interests. Soon they will be the driving force behind your research breakthroughs. Soon, if not already, they will be your largest group of volunteers. Soon, if not already, they will make up your majority workforce. We should not concern ourselves for when the inevitable will happen, but rather how do we take advantage of the momentum.
Every generation is a pendulum swinging – starting off slow, gaining speed, reaching their peak momentum, slowing down, and finally stopping. All while other generations reach different stages of their own cycle.
Perhaps Generation X is at or approaching their peak right now, in philanthropic terms. Getting them to that stage took cultivation. The same will be seen for the Millennials. Meet them where they are, be digitally available to them, cultivate their interest, embrace what they can give, and acknowledge their contributions.
Millennials care, they really do. Old establishments of the past are being challenged and shook by this Millennial cabal because their needs are not being met. Non-profit organizations exist for that very reason: for decades, non-profit groups have solely existed for those who belong to marginalized groups, have relegated interests, or as an advocacy/alliance for those unable to speak out. Millennials and non-profits are predestined to be a driving force in the world. The only thing to get ready for is a breadth of impact hitherto unseen in history.
*Department stores and retail stores were some of the only places where millennials could get jobs for a long, long, time. This hit might be personal.