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Highlights from the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit

Millennial Donor Summit 2011 logoThanks to the generosity of AmeriCorps Alums, the national network of AmeriCorp alumni, this AmeriCorps alumnus had the honor of attending the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit (MDS11). Presented by The Case Foundation, the purpose of MDS11 was to build upon the findings of the annual Millennial Donors Survey conducted by JGA and Achieve. Sessions featured speakers from a number of fields, ranging from the worlds of market research, technology and nonprofits. Looking back at the sessions I attended and the simultaneous Twitter conversation about the conference, there were two large themes that stood out: the relationship between the Millennial Generation and technology and engaging Millennials for the long-term.

Millennials are the first “always connected” generation and using technology is an essential tool to reaching out to members of this generation. Organizations that want to reach out to Millennials need to meet them where they are, whether that is Facebook, Twitter or another channel. If Millennials cannot connect with an organization in the way they want, i.e. web; mobile; social media etc., there is a great risk that they will move onto another organization. It is therefore important for organizations to cultivate a presence in multiple areas but remember that in so doing, that Millennials expect consistency across all channels.

One tool that organizations should consider employing now and into the future is mobile technology. According to recent market research, mobile smart phones now account for 50% of mobile devices sold in the United States. Given Millennials’ comfort with embracing new technologies, organizations should consider using mobile as a way to begin cultivating relationships with Millennials so that they become their lifelong organization of choice.

Technology has allowed Millennials to feel more empowered to demand and make change. However, technology should only be viewed as a means to an end and needs to be woven into an organization’s larger outreach strategy. Organizations that want to engage Millennial donors need to explain how their donation will be used. Yet, it is worth noting that Millennials would rather give time than money, at least to start. Millennials’ preference for giving time lends credence to a statement by Wendy Harman of the American Red Cross during a panel discussion on the generational divide that “Millennials want to be ‘hands-on’ with organizations. The good news, as the results of the Millennial Donor Survey illustrate, is that 58% of Millennials who volunteer more, give more.

The bad news for organizations is that they will have a hard time keeping Millennials’ donations and attentions focused on them to the exclusion of other nonprofits. Unlike previous generations, Millennials are more inclined to embrace multiple causes, recognizing the intersections between seemingly different issues. As Jean Case noted, Millennials do not see the world in the siloed way that older generations have. It is no surprise then that Millennials have an urge to be collaborative. Within organizations, this means engaging Millennials within cross-generational work teams and on your Board. Outside of an organization, this means giving Millennial supporters and donors the opportunity to build communities around your cause.

The findings of the Millennial Donor Survey and the panels at the Millennial Donor Summit hit home on many levels, gave me many ideas and made me proud to be part of this generation. Only time will tell if we, the members of the Millennial Generation, do in fact live up to the promise of being the next great generation as predicted by one of the conference speakers. Given the passion for service that I have felt with from my Millennial peers, particularly from my fellow Americorp alums, I think it’s fair to say we can live up to that prediction.

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