Zac Johnson has a lot of experience with Millennials. As Vice President at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals overseeing youth marketing and the rein-keeper of Dance Marathon (an experiential event on more than 150 college campuses across North America) he has worked with hundreds of Millennials on a daily basis. He has some great practical advice about working with this group that’s become such an important part of the fundraising spectrum.
- Millennials motivate money “Millennials are not necessarily donors, they’re fundraisers. The Dance Marathon at Indiana University raised 2.6 million dollars. Are the students themselves contributing 2.6 million dollars? No. But it’s their ability to mobilize the community to give that much. I think they have even more potential to be fundraisers for your organization than Generation X or Boomers.”
- The reason why they join in isn’t important “Before they participate, they may only be aware of the causes Kim Kardashian’s tweeting about, the hot button issue of the moment. However you get them into that event, it’s like a retreat. By the end they’ve all come around and experienced something on a new level.”
- Experiential fundraising can fill the need for immediacy “It takes this generation outside the norm, out of their daily routine. Millennials need immediacy, but they also need depth. This generation more than any other needs to feel impact. They’ll be the biggest generation yet in embracing causes.”
- Let them own your event “Many charities fail in engaging Millennials by not giving them enough ownership. Your inclination is to step in and guide them so they can feel like a success. But what we’ve found is that student ownership is what takes it to that next level for them.”
- Let ’em fail, It’ll be good for you “One of the more successful approaches we’ve had at Dance Marathon is to avoid micromanaging. They’ll go “Hey, here’s what we’re thinking.” I’ll give my two cents if it’s going in the wrong direction. But if it’s something they’re passionate about I’ll let them go. Failure is good because they felt like they were allowed to fail on their own. That’s very important for this generation. They’re not afraid of failure.”
- Mentor, but do it on tiptoe “Coaching is very important for Millennials. When we talk about ownership, we don’t take a complete sideline approach. If there’s a student group that’s really off track, use the Socratic method: Ask them questions. Lead them to that outcome in their minds so that 20 minutes later they’ll come up with that idea themselves. They feel they have personal ownership of that.”
- Just because you use a social medium, don’t assume they’re still into it “When their parents start adopting it, posting statuses and creeping on their Facebook wall, that’s when the medium stops being cool. Millennials are starting to drive away from Facebook. Is Twitter going to last more than a few more years? Probably not. It’s going to take a lot of due diligence on our part to stay ahead of these trends.”
- They’re multi-medium “If they have a question for me maybe they’ll email me. If it’s something they need an answer to right away, they’ll text me. If it’s an absolute emergency, believe it or not they’ll post it on my Facebook wall or tweet me. That’s not how I communicate, but that’s how they do.”
- Respond immediately, then wait “Millennials will definitely view a lack of prompt response as a lack of caring. But I might have a follow-up question and they might not get back to me for three or four days. Successful charities engaging this generation can provide that immediacy.”
- Don’t beat around the bush or sugar coat “This group is very quickly adapting to communicate in 140 characters or less. They want to get right down to the emotional core. They don’t need fluff, so being direct and concise with information is really important.”
- It’s hip to be square “The biggest pitfall is to try to talk to them like you’re one of them. If you try to be, it comes off as forced. Genuineness is very important to this generation. They really need to feel like the causes they support are real.”
- Use the fun factor to keep them around “A big difficulty with this generation is retaining them. They’ll be super passionate about something one day and then they’re onto the next music group or the next charity. The fun factor is key. They need to see some personal reward mixed in with the emotional reward.”
The full transcript of an informative webinar on Millennials that Zac gave is available as a PDF.
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