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The Need for Inspiration: How Millennials Connect, Involve and Give to Nonprofits

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Emily Holder

Millennials are young professionals, ages 20-35, whom are more tech-savvy and globally connected than the generations before them. Nonprofits face the challenge of engaging these individuals in becoming more involved volunteers, leaders, and donors.

In the third annual Millennial Impact Report, research was conducted by Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle, and Associates (JGA) to determine the attitudes of Millennials towards nonprofit organizations. Over 6,500 Millennials participated in the surveys and focus groups. Nonprofit professionals also were included in the study to determine best practices for including Millennials in nonprofit initiatives.

The Millennial Impact Report focuses on connecting, involving, and giving, to “reveal fresh insights into Millennials and their relationships with nonprofit organizations.”

Connecting:

Forming relationships with nonprofits is becoming increasingly viral, and Millennials desire these relationships to provide easy access to basic information and calls to action.

Millennials connect with nonprofits online in a variety of ways, including websites, email, smart phones, and social media. Social media outlets tend to get the most response from young adults with 67% of participants connecting with nonprofits via Facebook, while only 28% are connecting via Twitter. A status update or a blog post is an easy way to link an individual with a cause.

Involving:

Serving as a volunteer or leader in an organization requires action, but when Millennials respond, they often feel underutilized.

Millennials want options when it comes to giving their time and effort to an organization’s mission. Around 48% of Millennials want to pursue opportunities related to their educational or professional development, 45% want to organize events or serve on a planning committee, and 40% want to serve in a leadership capacity. Offering new and more creative opportunities to get young people involved will contribute to the relevance and sustainability of an organization.

Giving:

Last year, 75% of Millennials said they gave money to a nonprofit.  Nonprofits should take advantage of Millennials as a valuable resource and evaluate them as current and potential donors.

For Millennials, donating to a nonprofit is determined by what inspires them in the moment. Millennials also want to give when they know their gift will make a difference. When asked, “What is your biggest pet peeve about nonprofit fundraising,” respondents listed “not knowing how my gift will make a difference,” as number one. Millennials need to be inspired to make positive change a reality.

Many nonprofits are already engaging this young group of volunteers, leaders, and donors to expand the reach of their organization and to bridge the cross-generational gap. In order to succeed in the future, more nonprofits need to invest in Millennials and encourage their development in an organization.

John Coggin, Millennial and an Emerging Leaders Fellow at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues, believes,

“Nonprofits should make an effort to engage Millennials in their work because they are clamoring to be involved. Millennials grew up being told that they could make a difference, but as they enter adulthood, we are seeing a dearth of engagement from this generation. I think the reason for this is that their role as change agents has not been adequately defined by many nonprofits. In other words, it is not often clear how their work will make a difference. If organizations communicate to them how they can be engaged – and how that engagement will make an impact – Millennials will respond. They have a genuine passion for their communities and for the world, and they have been primed to make a difference. They just need that catalyst.”

Millennials are a valuable resource to nonprofits and should be cultivated to move an organization into the future. There are countless ways for nonprofits to connect, involve, and encourage giving with today’s young adults, expanding the social capital that is so vital to many organizations’ success.


Emily Holder is serving as a technical communications consultant for the Institute for Nonprofits and the Philanthropy Journal’s website coordinator. She is a recent graduate from North Carolina State University with a major in Psychology and minor in Nonprofit Studies.

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