Guest Blog Post By: Scot Chisholm, StayClassy

Of the many trends thatthe 2012 Millennial Impact Report was able to unearth, there was one that was particularly compelling. An overwhelming majority of the millennials surveyed for the report (71%) said they had raised money on behalf of a nonprofit organization. Of those that hadn’t raised money for a nonprofit, about half indicated that they simply hadn’t had the opportunity to do so. That brings the total percentage of surveyed millennials who either have raised money for a nonprofit, or would be willing to, all the way up to 84%. And that’s pretty amazing.

It’s also consistent with the trends we’re seeing at StayClassy on a daily basis across thousands of nonprofit organizations using our platform to raise money. Although people of all ages do engage in online fundraising, there is a persistent bias towards the younger generation. For one reason or another (perhaps comfort level with the Internet and technology) millennials are exceptionally active in the online fundraising space. This means they are an incredibly important audience for any nonprofit looking to build a serious online fundraising program (and they will only get more important as time goes by).

We’ve also been fortunate to get a close up view of a handful of organizations that are incredibly effective at engaging millennials (Invisible Children and Pencils of Promise are a couple good examples) and many other organizations that simply aren’t.

And this got us thinking. What makes the Invisible Children’s of the world stand out? How are they able to consistently rally a younger audience to support their cause, and ultimately, raise millions online?

After pouring over these high performing organizations we came up with a list of ten keys for effectively engaging and empowering an audience of millennials (you can check out a summary of the list below).  Although the list was focused on engagement in general rather than fundraising techniques in particular, many of the tenets we came up with directly support the fundraising trends mentioned in the Millennial Impact Report.

One in particular stood out to me: “Let Millennials Define their own ‘Why’.  This means providing a vehicle for millennials to tell their own personal story as part of your larger organizational story (through a personal fundraising page, a video log, or some other medium).  Doing this allows the individual to internalize why they are supporting your organization and makes them feel more comfortable fundraising on your behalf. It also sets up the fundraising as an expressive, social, and interactive experience.

Suppose I create a fundraising page for a breast cancer organization. When I use that page to explain that my mom had breast cancer and what my personal motivation is, I do that because I care about the cause, but I also do it because I want to share my personal story with my friends and family. This activity is expressive (telling my story) and social (sharing with friends and family) and, ultimately, interactive (commenting and communicating with donors). All of these aspects make the experience of supporting the nonprofit more personal and fulfilling.

Millenials have grown up with immediate technological means of giving and receiving information with a wider audience. Interactive experiences are the norm for us (yes, I’m a millennial too). Giving a static donation feels impersonal and irrelevant. Creating a fundraising page or hosting my own charity event and explaining to my friends why this matters to me, that feels relevant.

These observations dovetail nicely with the findings of the Millennial Impact Report. Remember 71% of surveyed millennials had fundraised for a nonprofit and when they did they stayed close to home. 84% asked friends for donations and 80% asked their extended families for donations. The experience they are gravitating to is a personal one where they can express their individual motivations to support a larger cause with the people they care about (friends and family).

Where we see breakout success is when organizations are able to marry this personal story telling with fundraising.  Peer-to-Peer fundraising pages are a great tool to do this, which is one of the reasons why organizations like Invisible Children have gravitated towards this fundraising technique.

If you’re interested in the full list of the10 keys for engaging a millennial audience you can see a condensed version below, or, you can see the expanded list over here:

10 Keys for Engaging & Empowering Millennials

1. Build instant (and we mean instant) credibility

Millenials are accustomed to using aesthetics as a quick proxy for determining value. If your website is uninspiring, we’ll just click off to something else.

2. Tell us why we should we care

If you can’t effectively show us why you care about this cause, then we won’t care. The easiest way to convince us that we should care is by showing us why you care.

3. Give us a “villain

Millennials are an idealistic bunch; we want to save the world. Give us a chance to express this idealism by clearly painting a picture of who or what we’re up against.

4. State the impossible

Millennials love the impossible. Lay out a challenge that everyone else says can’t be accomplished, and millennials will rally to your call.

5. Let us define our own ‘why?’

For millennials to truly commit to your organization, they will need to internalize the cause and decide why it matters to them personally.  That’s why it’s critical to give millennials a vehicle to tell their own story as part of your larger story.

6. Promote a common purpose

Millennials want to see how their action (or inaction) affects the overall success or failure of the community as it collectively tries to achieve its objective. It’s important to clearly display a collective goal and make it easy to see other people who are part of the community.

7. Be ultra transparent

Millennials grew up with information at their fingertips; they question everything. The importance of demonstrating how donations will be used cannot be understated. And the importance of demonstrating the impact of your work also cannot be understated.

8. Show us progress (any progress)

Millennials want to see your progress in real-time, the same way they consume most of their information on a daily basis. Demonstrate progress through constant communication, make it digestible for your audience, and celebrate this progress as a “win” in a series of many “wins” that will be necessary to achieve your larger objectives.

9. Inspire us with what’s next

It’s important to clearly articulate your next organizational challenge, and lay the foundation for how I might become involved.  What is your latest goal?  To achieve that goal, what type of support do you need from your base and how can I individually help you?

10. Move us to action

It is absolutely critical to give millennials a strong and unified call-to-action across all of your communication channels.  We suggest moving them to an action that goes above and beyond a simple donation, like creating a fundraising page. These types of “asks” allow millennials to personalize the cause, get their friends and family involved, and most importantly, deepen the emotional connection with your organization