Tag: Millennials

For young Americans today, connecting with each other has never been easier, more immediate, or more influential. Causes must be strategic about entering into these conversations, and tech plays a vital role in the design and delivery of this strategy.

Millennials and their friends consistently share and actively respond to information and opinions. To effectively and authentically take part, causes must implement responsive models that involve young cause enthusiasts (and their networks) in your issue and ultimately persuade them to join your cause.

To begin in the right direction, we look at the nation’s largest body of research on millennials: the Millennial Impact Project, a joint venture between the Case Foundation and research teams I’ve led. After a decade of research, the final report was just released: Understanding How Millennials Engage With Causes and Social Issues: Insights From 10 Years of Research Working in Partnership With Young Americans on Causes Today and in the Future.

We instinctively know that tech is powerful, and millennials, for the most part, are savvy users. But tech must be so much more than a social media strategy. Far more than a tool for monitoring and pushing out content to this audience, tech should be part of the fabric of your organization’s strategy.

To help in your planning, we’re sharing the top five tech findings from the mountain of research data, analysis, and recommendations from the Millennial Impact Project:

  1. It’s an online and offline world. At the onset of this decade-long study, we expected by now to see millennials taking actions in digital-only environments. But it hasn’t happened. Moreover, in every study, we clearly saw that activity in the offline world — activism in particular — continued to reign. Millennials don’t restrict their issue participation to either offline or online. They do both. It’s “and” not “or.”
  2. Their online actions are both small and large. When looking at the type and intensity of actions taken online (from social shares to DIY fundraising), we find the spectrum to be broad and, at times, deep. Connecting and forming relationships among peers certainly expands the profundity of an action, but we cannot discount the power in individual (digital) hand-raising, either — especially when we’re trying to build affinity and loyalty. Small public acts like “Yes, I agree” have a huge effect on a millennial who is just starting to explore how they feel about an issue, let alone act for those affected.
  3. Concurrent digital and non-digital activism reinforce and build on each other. Millennials believe in the power of activism and move toward greater actions by using their voice in addition to other assets they hold. At the same time, they believe they can be an activist in small ways that make a big impact, such as donating online and/or offline and talking to their friends about it — again, online and/or offline. Online forums can be great places for inspiring activism, and they are organized online and off. From posts to petition signing to hosting small talks in digital and non-digital environments, their activism happens all across the spectrum of participation.
  4. SEO and search queries relate to the issue, not the organization. People who care about an issue will search for information on that issue before they look for a specific organization potentially related to it. They want to help people or animals or the environment, not organizations. Your website needs to be seen as a resource for educational information and advocacy resources. Digital ads and boosted posts can drive visitors to these resources. Tech can improve your site’s organic visibility for millennials through optimization, auditing, user testing, and keyword research.
  5. Online and in-person, it’s a journey. We’ve learned that millennials are what we call “everyday changemakers.” For them, mixing online and offline cause-related actions is a daily, ongoing journey with no straight path of engagement you can plot. Rather, millennials move in and out of participation; they use tech to enhance their offline experiences, and they use their offline actions as shareable experiences and knowledge. They begin their participation simply and easily, then become more deeply engaged over time.

Tech can bridge the offline and online worlds millennials act within today rather than be a supplement for the other. As we have said time and again, expecting millennials to move along the traditional paths of passive to active engagement is a crucial mistake — which means we cannot force them to move within traditional organization structures, either.

Today, young Americans may enter a cause at almost any point on the engagement path and move back and forth along it. This means your organization must be flexible, adaptable, and highly responsive. Supportive tech underlying all these new approaches and opportunities may mean the difference between the organizations that truly stand out and those that continue to react.

Download Understanding How Millennials Engage With Causes and Social Issues: Insights From 10 Years of Research Working in Partnership With Young Americans on Causes Today and in the Future at themillennialimpact.com/latest-research.


Often branded as a generation with loads of student debt and a lot of struggles in the current economy, it’s easy to write them off as a source of donors and supporters. Don’t believe the hype.

Millennials represent a generation of idealists who are typically more socially-conscious than other generations. They truly desire and believe they can make the world a better place, and therefore they are positioned to make a change.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

How do you move Millennials to go the last half of the way? In order to engage Millennials in your nonprofit’s next fundraising campaign, the first step is to learn how they communicate and what’s important to them.

Here are three tactics you can use to engage Millennials in your next crowdfunding campaign.

1. Tell a Story That Inspires Them

According to the Millennial Impact Report, “When asked to choose the phrase that best describes their giving preferences, 42% of respondents chose, “I give to whatever inspires me at the moment.” Regardless of how they gave, many of the surveyed Millennials can be expected to act quickly when moved.

This means that the “doom and gloom” approach to fundraising, as I call it, won’t work with Millennials. We’ve all seen the commercials during which the editor puts a slow motion effect on video footage of sick puppies and sticks a sad song in the background.

It doesn’t inspire you, does it? It often does the opposite, in fact, leaving people feeling sad, helpless, and guilty. But what if you turned that story around?

Instead, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue told their story in a whole different light. They went to a high kill shelter and rescued eleven dogs in honor of #GivingTuesday. Each day leading up to #GivingTuesday, they posted a picture of one dog, now happy and back to health with text that said, “Donations Saved My Life.”

This elicited a response from their audience and brought in three times as many donations as they had ever raised in a single day. Their donors acted because they were uplifted; I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were Millennials.

So think about your nonprofit’s story, your donor’s stories, or the story of someone your nonprofit helped, and get to writing! Craft an inspiring story using these quick tips:

  • Pose your nonprofit’s mission as a conflict you’re fighting against. For example, if you’re nonprofit is focused on feeding the hungry, you’re battling hunger and the cycle of poverty.
  • Make your donors the hero of the cause. Emphasize that their participation created the impact.
  • Show the audience that your nonprofit is supporting the donors in making an impact.

With powerful storytelling, your nonprofit will be able to inspire Millennials to take a step to make a difference.

2. Articulate Impact

Millennials, like I said earlier, are very interested in making an impact, and furthermore what that impact entails. They don’t just want to know they did something good; they want to know how they did good.

The Millennial Impact Report found that 78% of Millennials are very likely or somewhat likely to stop donating if they are not informed how their donation has made an impact.

So, do your best to quantify how dollars donated gets translated into impact. While not every organization does just one service with one finite impact, consider creating donation tiers, which very clearly show how donations are used.

Friendship Bridge is a nonprofit that works with Guatemalan women to eliminate poverty. Recently, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on CauseVox for their new health program, and this is how they quantified their services:

Donation tiers - Friendship Bridge

While it’s clear that Friendship Bridge’s needs for starting the health program were diverse, they were pretty clear about how the breakdown of funds were being used, and the impact each specific amount donated made.

Likewise, take a look at your fundraising goal and your budget for your next project. How can you break down the dollars to equate to tangible impact?

If you’re looking to crowdfund for a project without tangible impact, such as cancer research or raising nonprofit startup funds, consider:

  • Having a fundraiser based around an activity —runs, walks, and races can proxy as a measure, so that you can equate dollars raised to miles walked, etc. For information, 64% of Millennials said they prefer to fundraise this way.
  • Breaking up your fundraising goal into smaller phases, and explain in detail what is getting done along the way.
  • Try using a rewards-based method of fundraising. Offer perks for each donation amount, which can quantify the value of a donation.
  • Run a recurring donation campaign, so that you can report how funds are being used along the way. Fifty-two percent of Millennials said they’d be interested in this type of fundraising.

3. Email Them

Surprisingly, “Email is Millennial donors’ most preferred communication method, with 93% of respondents favoring it for receiving information from organizations. Facebook and print communication are less valued by donors at 24 percent and 27 percent, respectively.”

It seems like the assumption would be that the best way to connect with Millennials is on social media. While being present on social media is still very important, it seems that your email newsletter is the best way to stay in contact! They want consistent contact, on a monthly or quarterly basis.

When you are gearing up for a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign, use the newsletter to promote your campaign, as well as keep in contact with them afterward.

Here’s a few key items to keep in include when compiling your newsletter:

  • An inspiring story featuring someone who received your services
  • Updates on the progress of your campaign
  • A strong call to action. This will give your donors the opportunity to easily donate again, as they feel inspired!
  • Shareable content for social media

After your campaign is all said and done, here’s a few ideas on how to keep in contact:

  • Send updates on programs and services (79% of Millennials want them)
  • Inform your audience of volunteer opportunities (70% were interested)
  • Offer invitations to fundraising events, activities and events for young professionals (56% said they were interested)

By keeping your Millennial audience in the loop this way, they’re able to stay informed about your nonprofit’s work and build a deeper connection with your organization.

Millennials are on a mission to leave an impact on this world, and you have the opportunity to tap into that power and work together to create meaningful change.

By now you may think you’ve heard everything you need to know about Millennials: their needs, their quirks, maybe even how they look at fundraising. Why spend some much time examining this particular generation?

The reason is simple: In every way, Millennials represent the future of your organization. We don’t study Millennials to compare them to older generations. Rather, we study this generation because they will soon make up the majority of your donor base. At that point, their ideas and quirks will no longer be preferences unique to one demographic. Their preferences and needs will become the norm.

Keep these three facts in mind (via The Millennial Impact Project):

  • Reading emails is the number one action taken by Millennials for a nonprofit via their smartphone
  • More than 65% of Millennials receive email or e-newsletters from 1-5 different nonprofit organizations
  • Millennials are more likely to give through email than any other common fundraising channel (e.g., direct mail, phone solicitation, etc.)

Since the inception of the Millennial Impact Project in 2009, we have been looking at how Millennials react to fundraising approaches, campaigns, and calls-to-action. We have even analyzed fundraising messaging to try and understand the reasons why someone in his or her 20s and 30s would support a specific cause.

Email as a response channel is still the highest mechanism for online giving. Many continue to argue for and predict the demise of email as a fundraising tool. While you may personally lack interest in receiving emails, we continue to see the opposite. Millennials, like other potential donors, prefer emails and respond to them at much higher rates than other communications. Based on what we have seen in our research, email continues to generate the highest reaction and raise the most money.

Here are five things you need to know about reaching Millennial donors through email:

1. Use sequential emails to build a larger narrative

We have seen a lot of success in organizations that use a series of emails, each sharing a brief part of the bigger picture, to tell a larger narrative. Choose your story or issue and use each email to highlight an aspect of the bigger picture. The final email in the series is when you ask for a donation. This strategy works particularly well in engaging donors through peer fundraising campaigns.

2. Tailor learning experiences and take your donors on a custom journey

The ideal Millennial donor experience involves a journey through learning, acting and giving. Starting with learning, once you have piqued their interest and they are first experiencing your organization, allow them to select which aspects of your cause they are most interested in. Set up an email learning series based on the subject(s) they select. Next, ask them to take small actions, like sharing information on social media or forwarding an email. Follow up with larger actions, like attending an event or volunteering. Finally, now that they know about your cause and have invested their time and network, ask them to financially invest in the cause. To bring the individual into the act of fundraising, a series of emails that ask the individual to act on behalf of the cause before an email about giving can see higher response rates.

3. Compelling email content inspires action

In our studies and observations, we’ve found that Millennials are drawn into solicitations and calls to action when the organization is able to entice them to read more. This means personalization (using the recipient’s first name), pre-header text and a one-line reason why the narrative of the story applies to the reader draws inspires them to read more.

4. Just because they didn’t react, doesn’t mean they don’t care

This is an interesting point most fundraisers and marketers get wrong. When an individual receives a solicitation, reads it, and doesn’t react, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It takes ongoing communication and involvement in the story to get a reaction and one-time reacts are likely to get the average rates we see.

5. Email copy is really bad

When looking at email copy overall, it has been fairly challenging to get through or even get the emotion and excitement necessary to bring me from an enthusiast to a supporter. Email copy is quick, powerful, and focused on the reader as a hero in the giving scenario. It means that the copy needs to maintain a construction of learning statement followed by importance to the reader, and ultimately why that application should happen now to help the individual.

In June 2015, my team and I released the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, which examines how Millennials view cause engagement, specifically in the workplace. Our initial data, as well as our soon-to-be released interview results, confirm what we’ve found in all of our studies: Millennials are the giving generation. The question is how you and your organization can engage this group of do-gooders to take meaningful action in support of your cause.

Email can be a powerful system for raising money if used properly and if it brings the individual through a process of learning, acting, and giving. Remember that email only works if you apply it to the individual rather than to a goal of an organization. Email is a method to convey part of a story, not the whole story each time. Make the individual want to open and read through because you provided a line that sparks the emotion of the giving act.

Today I’m at MCON, an event focused on Millennial engagement. Here’s a postcard of sorts from one piece of the program: the Be Fearless! Pitch-It competition. (I was especially intrigued about this part of the event because, with the help of our friends at LimeRed Studios, NTEN is planning its own Idea Accelerator at the Leading Change Summit this September.)

Emily Yu of the Case Foundation served as the emcee and interviewer as three social entrepreneurs presented quick pitches about their work and tech products. Along with the input of four judges (who, ahead of time, narrowed the applicant pool down to these three competitors), the Case Foundation and Millennial Impact have asked the audience to vote online until 4:45pm Central time today

Whose stories resonated most? Who will win $2,000 to put toward their projects? Here are my notes, dashed off in the auditorium at #MCON14 to help you decide if you want to vote.

Pitch #1: Param Jaffi of Ecoviate

    •    Param is 19 years old and is focused on tech products that help people make sustainable choices and reduce carbon emissions. “I was first an environmentalist and second an entrepreneur…It’s hard to change the world if you don’t have a planet to live on.” 
    •    60 million cars are produced globally each year, and there are 1.7 billion motor vehicles in the world today; 2.4 million pounds of CO2 released per second.
    •    Products include Greenshields, ecotube, and ecotank
    •    One tree is planted for every item purchased or downloaded
    •    Param met his business partners at the Forbes 30 Under 30 party. Each had products in development; they decided to work together rather than compete in the same space. 
    •    They’ve also launched the Ecoviate Mentorship Program – so far it’s very informal, they’re mentoring other youth around the world. Eventually they will launch a more formal program.
    •    Big goals in addition to iterating on the products and getting them adopted widely: By 2016, they will solidify their business strategy, aggregate a mentorship program of 100,000 students around the world, and plant a million trees. Aim to build sustainable tech, empower others to do the same, and have some fun in the process.
    •    Ideation process: “I’ve always identified as an environmentalist and an inventor” – Param will sketch something out and then reach out to his mentors to develop it in a pragmatic way. 
    •    Other guiding principles include “fail forward” and the principle that you can have great ideas in the lab, but if people don’t believe in the “why” of what you’re doing, the change doesn’t get implemented.

Pitch #2: Hiraa Khan of Givemob

    •    Givemob is a mobile app that allows people to make charitable donations with simple clicks, and brings new projects to users’ attention.  
    •    In the U.S., charitable giving is rising, but falling among Millennials (from 8% to 3% in the last decade). At Givemob, we believe this is because nonprofits are not reaching Millennials where they live – on mobile devices.
    •    Among people ages 12-29, 50% say they primarily access online with mobile devices. “We can take spontaneous action wherever and whenever we want to do so.” 
    •    The 2010 Haiti earthquake brought mobile giving into public consciousness, citing strong percentages of people who have given via mobile who say they now prefer giving that way…but there are few mobile channels that allow and inspire us to give. 
    •    How Givemob works: After the app is downloaded, users select charitable preferences (e.g. housing, human rights, education) so that the Givemob team can curate content that reflects the needs and interests of users.
    •    Every day the app shows a new nonprofit campaign, whether project-specific or org-specific. They keep the past five campaigns active on the app in case users missed a few days.
    •    If you want to donate, you click and are taken to a text-to-donate mechanism (two main reasons for this: first, because texting is familiar to people, and also because Apple iTunes guidelines prohibit in-app donations unless it’s a donation via text). 
    •    Givemob also keeps a log of users’ giving so they can export and keep track for donation/tax purposes. 
    •    After launching February 2014, the app already has thousands of supporters, hundreds of users, dozens of nonprofit supporters without having put any money yet into marketing, sales, and partnerships. 
    •    Looking to release version 2 later this summer, with better content creation based on interest and giving history, geolocation based giving, offline interactions, generally enhancing UX and UI.
    •    “We want to make giving as easy as possible, and if you’re a nonprofit, we’d love to hear from you.” 

Pitch #3: Cabell Maddux, Scholarships Expanding Education (SEE)

    •    Cabell taught himself programming to create the prototype for this platform. 
    •    Premise: Anyone can create a named scholarship on behalf of a loved one. They fundraise via their network and then transfer the total amount to an institution.
    •    Example: Story of Ashley Jackson, an admissions counselor from a small college in Danville, Virginia. Her friend Blake died a few years ago at age 24 due to complications from epilepsy. Blake was a beloved DJ at a local country oldies station. Ashley decided to create a scholarship in Blake’s memory. SEE aims to help someone like Ashley utilize her unique set of resources (time, social media presence, a cause that’s near and dear to her).
    •    The opportunity to create a named scholarship has traditionally been limited to people who can give $30,000 or $50,000 up front. But these restrictions aren’t the fault of the institutions – having to handle the logistics for smaller donations is a nightmare. So SEE aims to externalize those logistical barriers. 
    •    People can create a scholarship in less than 5 minutes and get right to fundraising, and then SEE makes it easy to transfer it to the institution of their choice.
    •    Someone donated $60 to the Blake Dalton scholarship in May. She didn’t know Ashley, but that brought the scholarship to $500 even. 10 days before her deadline, Ashley had reached her goal. This fall, a university will award the scholarship to a communications major. 
    •    Are schools receptive? SEE has gone everywhere from small K-12 private schools in VA to schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. The goal is balancing the experience of the organizer of the scholarship with making it simple for the institution.
    •   So far it is a bootstrapped platform that’s automated and very scalable.  

Intrigued? Already rooting for one of these? You can vote until 4:45pm Central time today at http://themillennialimpact.com/mcon14-live.

I’m excited to be an official blogger for the The Millennial Impact Project’s upcoming conference, MCON13. MCON is an annual conference, gathering nonprofit professionals and corporate leaders to discuss how to engage and involve Millennials in social causes.

MCON13 will take place in Indianapolis on July 18th. Learn from an array of experts on Millennial engagement during the day, with an evening program of headliners discussing investment in Millennials. The impressive line-up of experts includes speakers from Twitter, SeaChange, YouTube, NPR, and headliner, Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ.

You can attend the conference in Indianapolis or you can join in the conversation through the Online Experience. Online attendees will be able to listen to the free livestream of talks and take part in the social media and conference chat. Tickets are limited and expected to sell out, so don’t delay in registering for MCON13.

Getting excited to learn more about engaging millennials in your cause? Join Achieve and Care2, on June 13th for a free webinar, “How Millennials are Changing Social Causes”. You can also check out Jason Shim and Shubhagata Sengupta‘s article on using emerging technology to engage youth. And don’t miss tomorrow’s #commbuild Chat where Jason and Shubhagata will be leading this week’s chat on engaging youth online.

Look forward to having you as part of the conversation!

At Pathways to Education, we offer cross-cultural conflict resolution training called YOUCAN, and one of the first topics we cover with the students is that the analogy of an iceberg can be useful in understanding people.

Typically, you only see about 10% of an iceberg above the water, and the remaining 90% remains submerged and unseen. We use this analogy to help students remember that when interacting and communicating with others, there is much underneath the surface that remains to be discovered through conversation and engagement.

The iceberg analogy can be a particularly powerful analogy when we think about how we might use social media to truly engage youth. While there is an increasing number of youth-facing nonprofits that employ organizational Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, the usage of separate, professional, Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts can be a more meaningful way to engage young people. In our experience, effective engagement and monitoring of social media in this way can help reveal the “hidden” 90%.

To illustrate this, we will draw upon the high-profile example of 17-year-old Yannis Carayannopoulos, also known as the “YOLO streaker.” In 2012, Yannis hopped over the fence at the Roger’s Centre in Toronto during a Blue Jays baseball game and started running across the field.

He tore off his shirt and pants to reveal only a Speedo and the word “YOLO,” which he had emblazoned upon his chest. He evaded game officials for several minutes before being apprehended by police officers and charged with “mischief — interfering with property.” While most people heard about this incident after it had occurred, we wondered if he may have given any indication online that he was planning this.

Sure enough, Yannis has a Twitter account that provided a play-by-play commentary detailing his plans for what had been dubbed #ProjectY. Evidently, he had done his research beforehand and ensured that he was wearing a Speedo so that he would not be charged with indecency.

While his teachers and parents may have been surprised, his friends knew what was happening the entire time. Indeed, several of them were publicly responding to his tweets about #ProjectY right up until the time he entered the stadium. This is the 90% that can be valuable when considering working with youth.

Yannis and the YOLO streaker incident may be a humorous example, but there have been many instances in the last few years in which Twitter and Facebook have been used to help our organization better provide resources to serve our youth. We have gone beyond having organizational pages, and many staff members have created individual profiles to provide an additional channel in which they can communicate with youth who are in our program.

By using Facebook and Twitter to keep these lines of communication open, we have learned about many situations and circumstances that may not have otherwise been discovered. A young person who had clothes stolen from an apartment laundry machine was able to get help immediately from one of our staff after we saw it on Twitter. Another youth expressed challenges dealing with alcoholism in the family through Twitter. And, of course, we often hear about relationships on Twitter and Facebook, and that provides us with an opportunity to provide support for youth during those times as well.

The front line staff in our organization often meet with students in person, but tools like Twitter and Facebook allow us to engage with them in real-time.

One of the questions we are frequently asked is how to develop policies and guidelines around engaging youth on social media. PolicyTool.net is a great website for developing a very basic policy for your organization. It allows you to input some basic information about your organization and will provide you with a policy to guide initial usage. However, we have also developed what has become known as the “Shopping Mall Question” to help us address some of the concerns that may arise from engaging with youth via social media – as a kind of “general policy” guideline.

The Shopping Mall Question simply asks, “if the situation was happening in a shopping mall, what would you do?” This tends to address 95% of the questions that arise. By framing social media within a familiar, real-life context, this approach empowers staff members to use their best professional judgment without feeling intimidated by the technology or the virtual setting. For instance, if a young person indicates via social media that they may be going through a rough time at home, the Shopping Mall Question application would go something like: “as a professionally trained youth worker, how would you deal with that situation if that was disclosed to you in a shopping mall?” The framework often yields useful considerations.

We are also often asked about establishing boundaries on social media. Our response is that there are no “social media boundaries” — there are only boundaries.

With this in mind, setting expectations is still important, so setting clear expectations around responses and availability via social media is vital. If you are regularly responding via social media to youth in the evenings, they may have a reasonable expectation that you will be available during those hours.

Since piloting an initial project with one of our local Pathways to Education program sites, we have seen the use of social media help our staff save substantial amounts of time and provide additional opportunities to engage our youth across the country.

When working with young people, one of the most important things that a youth worker can do is simply to be there to listen. Social media provides us with incredible opportunities to do just that.

A number of years ago, one of us had the opportunity to chaperone an Antarctic expedition with high school students. One sunny afternoon, while standing on the ship’s deck with a few others, we were all startled by a loud crack. A nearby iceberg had calved and large pieces of ice fell into the water. It happened quickly, and soon enough, the iceberg, which was now imbalanced, started turning over in the water. For those of us who were there, we witnessed an incredible sight – amidst all the cascades of water, the overturned iceberg revealed what had previously been submerged.

We are frequently reminded of this iceberg when we see all the Facebook and Twitter updates from youth. If we are there and we are listening, it can provide us with another opportunity to engage with young people when they reveal what is under the surface.

Jason Shim is passionate about the intersection of nonprofits, youth, and technology. In his role as Digital Media Manager for Pathways to Education Canada, he leads the organization’s national digital strategy. In September 2012, Jason led a team to create Txtocracy.com, an open-source project that aims to increase voter turnout via text message reminders. Follow Jason @jasonshim

Shubhagata Sengupta is passionate about photography and film. Shubhagata is the founder of LaunchVault Media, which provides unique photography and video solutions for clients in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Shubhagata is currently completing a degree in business and digital media and loves exploring social media, technology, and entrepreneurship. Shubhagata has also been the youngest presenter for two consecutive years at the annual conference of the Nonprofit Technology Network. Follow Shub @shubsengupta.