Special Report: Millennial Giving – Part 3
What are some practical ways to reach and inspire Millennial philanthropy? How do those methods make us better at encouraging donors of all ages?
By learning about what matters to younger donors we found that doing the right thing to engage Millennials is also the right thing to engage donors of other ages, too. Many thanks to our panel of experts who gathered.
Don’t just guess: let Millennials show you what they want
You can always ask donors what they want from a relationship with your organization – surveys, phone calls, face-to-face meetings and emails asking for feedback are ways to check in with donors throughout the year. Millennials are like any other group of donors: they want to know that what they do is effective and meaningful.
Beyond that, you can also include Millennials in your process by adding a few to your board. Not just a “young leadership” board, or a separate group for “the youth”, but actually as board members. Including the viewpoints and voices of real Millennials will give your organizational leadership a much longer range to the overall mission, and can bring you new tools for recruiting more advocates – supporters and donors – at younger ages.
The line between “just right” and “too much”
Some advice for communicating with donors of any age: We shouldn’t abandon all our tried-and-true practices for donor retention among older donors just because of increased interest in Millennials.
For example, phone calls.
There’s no reason fundraisers can’t engage with donors by picking up the phone. Donors often prioritize the truly personal touch of a thank-you phone call. While you’re adding online platforms and automated systems to your fundraising toolkit, don’t forget the basic tools you already have at hand, like the phone or a personal handwritten letter.
Likewise, tech-savvy fundraising isn’t just for kids!
Millennials may use apps and text-based messaging primarily – but so do Gen X’ers and Boomers. Technology use has become less age-restricted now that even octogenarians and nonagenarians are plugging in and getting online. If your technology is truly forward-thinking, it should be easy and accessible enough to attract Millennials and be welcoming to even the oldest of prospective donors.
The really-long-term strategy
Another key area that Millennials don’t usually think about is Planned Giving. Ah, youth.
There are steps you can take to approach long-time donors and even some donor-advised funds about putting your organization on their list of bequest recipients. Many older donors are on the lookout for ways to leave a legacy of social impact. Does your site website have an easy way to find out how to make a bequest to your organization? Do you have a staff member who is able to field calls – or even make calls – about planned giving?
Trust, accountability, and transparency are all major factors in how donors decide where to grant a bequest, and have been since before Millennials wanted proof of those things delivered through push notifications on their smartphones. Don’t forget to demonstrate how your organization is trustworthy and accountable through more traditional methods, too.
Online donation is just the beginning
The ability to donate online is expected these days – for example, through a payment gateway like PayPal or Stripe – but you still need the details of each transaction. By using a gateway that “integrates” with your database, and by using a data management system that gives you more online tools to work with, you can automate the transfer of relevant data directly from the online donation form to the database.
Take advantage of automation, which allows a donor’s actions to immediately trigger a cascade of results like a thank-you email, a receipt, ways for a donor to share their relationship with you on social media, and link to where they can look at how their donation is having an effect in the real world. This also helps create a traceable path between donors and their impact.
By ensuring a seamless, easy online experience for your donors – Millennial or otherwise – you also give yourself an opportunity to implement systems that maintain transparency. You’ll feel the benefits of a more transparent system when it comes to reporting, writing grant applications, and filing your IRS 990’s.
Strategize before you upgrade
It’s great that you want to reach more donors online. But be wary of the pitfalls of just joining every service or buying the first technology you see.
For example, just having a website doesn’t mean you’ve achieved your online potential. Just having a Facebook page doesn’t mean you’re “doing” social media.
While it’s tempting to jump right in, spend some time to craft a strategy and task list for how you’re going to produce, manage, and update the content of your online outlets. If you drive Millennial traffic to your YouTube channel but only have one video, you’re still not going to have success there. You can budget for a flashy new website, but if you don’t update it regularly it becomes a very pretty brick that you keep paying for.
The key is to know where you’re deriving your content from. Do you have staff or volunteers out in the field taking photos? Does your organization’s service area prevent you from sharing photos of service recipients? Do you have policies that prevent you from sharing information (e.g. HIPAA)? How can you substitute data-based graphics in the place of photos? Plan for about a year of usable content at the beginning of each cycle.
It takes a lot of effort to maintain a steady stream of fresh content. If you really don’t have a lot of visual (or at least data-based) content to share, don’t worry about how often you put out something new – just be consistent. If you’re posting/sharing/emailing even just a few times a year, do so on a regular schedule so that donors and subscribers know when to expect something from you. Then, if you do have exciting or breaking news, it really is a nice surprise to hear from you.
With at least a year-long content strategy, you can make just a few social platforms (like a website and a Facebook page, or a Twitter account and a YouTube channel) you can be transparent and trustworthy, and also cool. Or hip. Whatever the kids call it these days.
Consider, also, an online annual report. It can be as simple as a PDF uploaded to your site, or as complicated as an interactive, clickable montage of images. When you have good data collection, using those data to make better reports is easy.
It’s even easier, then, to put impact data online so donors can make informed decisions about future giving. Putting data online makes it easier for donors – especially Millennial donors – to share that information through a single link, which means your donors will be more willing and more able to tell their friends about your cause. Yay, network growth!
Tips: Heart vs. Hardware
There’s a lot of tech out there – how do you make it work for your cause? It’s not just Millennials who use technology to buy – or donate – online. Don’t forget to connect people with your cause while getting your cause connected online.
In just a few short years, there’s been a massive cultural shift towards doing everything online. We shop online, we date online, and we donate online. The majority of shopping done by Gen X and Millennials is online. The internet has become dominant in our lives because of speed and convenience, but sometimes the personal touch is sacrificed for efficiency. Make sure your automatic messages and online presence are warm, or at least human, and make sure your human outreach is thoughtful and genuine.
Time is Money, Money is Care
The way we encourage support is through a donor-centric approach to marketing. If donors show they care by giving, then you can show you care about them, too. Actual transactions should also be a positive, personal experience. A donor or volunteer’s time is valuable – show that you respect and value their time/effort by giving them a quick and functional way of donating or signing up. This means visible security measures, trusted payment gateways, fewer pop-ups for mailing lists and more campaign-specific ways to donate.
See to Believe
Donors want proof of their impact – and proof they can share. Whether you’re sending Millennials a neat video montage or writing a grant report, using pictures, videos and charts are effective ways of showing what’s been done. Visualize growth with a before-and-after picture or a graph with an upward trend. Use arrows to point out donors or service recipients in photos. Find a platform or product that lets you easily add pictures and videos to acknowledgment emails, or produce infographics. Tie your metrics to emotional satisfaction, ensuring that donors really get the message about their impact.
Sharing is Caring
Always include ways for donors to share their support/generosity on social media. Demonstrating one’s philanthropic priorities online is the new inscribed plaque on a park bench or a name inscribed on a building. This is the way most people like – and can afford – to publicly announce their charitable actions and get that warm glow.