Gain insight on what the millennial generation needs before they’ll engage with your school’s needs.
“How do you get millennial donors and alumni to actually participate? Not just give, but also participate?” It’s a fair question, and one I get over and over again. While schools are deeply invested in finding solutions to market their schools successfully to prospective millennial parents, the need for holistic changes in practices — from the admissions office, to the business office, to the development office — is a clear mandate.
The millennial generation spans an enormous range of ages. According to the Pew Research Foundation in 2015, a millennial is anyone in the 18-34 age range. And while research varies on exactly who qualifies as a millennial, there’s no doubt that for older millennial parents (like me!), the issue of searching for and finding the perfect school for our children is paramount. But just as important is the work of engaging and focusing on younger millennial alumni and constituents in development and advancement initiatives.
Consider your audience.
The most pressing issue is getting millennial donors to open their wallets, and school advancement offices are finding long-standing established donor tactics are not effective with their younger millennial constituents. Millennials engage in fundraising and activism in different ways. While older generations of constituents may have been content to give systematically and without a specific ask from the school, millennials are more likely to respond to storytelling and school-community issues. This requires broader thinking about the tone and tenor of campaigns. Considerations such as the right distribution channels, photo/video usage, and campaign deliverables need to be determined to create a sense of urgency among millennial constituents.
Involvement over donation amount.
Millennials are more apt to give when they believe their monetary involvement is crucial. Another key factor in engaging your millennial constituents is having them spread the word themselves (i.e., crowd sourcing). Asking your millennial constituents to share your campaigns and giving pages on social media—and emphasizing that no amount is too small—may be messages that resonate with this group of donors.
Create a compelling story.
Any campaign, whether around a fundraising event or the annual giving campaign, needs to be personalized to the individual level. Broader stories about the tradition of the school have worked for older generations, but millennials will be more apt to involve themselves if they believe they are affecting a single student, family, classroom, or club.
Tell your story in new ways.
Instead of mailing campaign brochures, postcards, or letters, spend some time creating a short, emotionally driven video about the importance of the campaign. Encourage millennial constituents to share the video on their social media channels. Be sure to create compelling imagery and shorter versions of the video that can be shared on Instagram as well.
Don’t assume they want to donate on a specific schedule.
One of the biggest hurdles with millennial donors is their preferred variance in both a giving schedule and amount. While development offices are familiar with a once-per-quarter give of $200, a millennial constituent may prefer to give $10 per month and adjust that amount if needed. Offer as much flexibility as possible and put the ask in terms they understand: “For less than the cost of two Chipotle burrito bowls per month, you can help us build a new gym.”
Millennial volunteers are prime future donors because the proximity builds better relationships and activism. While local volunteers can help read to students or assist at events, offer long-distance constituents engagement opportunities as well. Volunteers can help write blog posts for the school or organize small events in their city (i.e., alumni happy hours).
Allow the impulsive give.
Mobile-responsive donation pages are key for this audience. Keep online giving portals simple and compelling, and investigate whether a text-to-give program is suitable for your school. For schools with a large number of young alumni/constituents, a text-to-give solution can promote more impulsive donations, especially when paired with an urgent ask. (“We need new uniforms for the marching band before our competition! Text YES to give $10 now.”)