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Five Keys to Building Your Nonprofit Millenial Strategy

With 25 years in fund accounting, Zobrio gets to work with some of the smartest nonprofits in the country. While we normally don’t play in the realm of fundraising or grant procurement, we do get access to wonderful strategies from our clients and today we’d like to share some with you.

Millennials are giving much differently than previous generations, and that’s changing how nonprofits approach this increasingly influential segment.

No group has captured the imagination of nonprofits like millennials – those born between 1981 and 2000. They are changing the charitable landscape, placing new demands on organizations for information, transparency and tools that streamline the donation process. And, the opportunity is huge. Research suggests that 87% of millennials have donated to a charity in the past year, bringing in an average of $481 per year across 3.3 charities. While they don’t yet constitute as significant a segment as their older cohorts, they represent a distinct departure from more traditional approaches of fundraising.

Zobrio has been fortunate to work with a wide range of non-profits that have kept an eye toward building inroads with the next generation.
Drawing on our experience along with recent research, here are five tips to courting millennials and positioning your non-profit to bring the power of the next generation to support your mission.

1. Don’t Ask for Donations. Focus on Investments:
Today’s donors want to feel more invested in a cause. Traditionally, many millennials have quite simply been skeptical of charities – they question how much of their donations actually end up helping. For the next generation, they want to feel like they’re making an investment, not simply donating to a cause where they don’t understand the impact. It’s a small, yet significant semantic change that can reap rewards.

2. Embrace the Power of Social Networks:
This is a generation that has come of age during the era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. 49% of millennials actively follow one or more nonprofits on social media. Research suggests that they are most compelled by updates that educate then on the organization, successful projects and the people the charity ultimately helps.

But, the most successful nonprofits go beyond updates and basic engagement. They encourage their supporters to rally their own friends – tapping into the natural narcissism of social media users to share their contributions – in time or money – with their network.

3. Use Digital Platforms to Empower, Not Just Solicit Donations:
Savvy nonprofits don’t simply use social networks as a way to mine donations from their followers, but rather as a way to engage their followers, encouraging them to become advocates and digital ambassadors. And they go beyond that, using social and digital media to recruit volunteers, spread key messages and connect with influential voices to amplify the reach.

4. Embrace the Sunlight:
Millennials are skeptical – 57% reported a desire to see the impact of their donation according to the Blackbaud study. The rise of digital media has created a generation that demands feedback on their efforts quickly. At the same time, the rise of sites such as Charity Navigator have given way to a new breed of educated donor, increasing the importance of financial transparency and accountability. More than ever, it is critical to have a robust, bulletproof financial accounting system in place.

5. Visualize the Impact:
The Ice Bucket Challenge has driven home the power of visuals on an unprecedented scale. The next generation of donors expects to see the fruits of their labor and donations. Give them what they want, and they’ll be more likely to spread the word – share images of your events and, most importantly, of the beneficiaries.

Millennials are poised to transform nonprofits. Organizations must learn to work with this generation to learn how they can involve them on all levels. Those that ignore them, do so at their own peril.