Millennials, or Generation Y as they’re sometimes known, are the demographic faction that follow Generation X. Commentators vary the dates of birth, but if you were born in the early 1980s right up to the early 2000s then congratulations! Like me, you are a millennial.
At the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) National Convention 2014, Polly Gowers, founder of ‘Give as you Live’, kicked off a launch of her organisations ‘Futurology’ white paper, which explores the giving habits of millennials.
Millennials represent the smallest demographic of givers today, but they’re also the most likely to increase their giving in the next 12 months. There are more millennials than there are baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). On average millennials spend 17.8 hours a day absorbing media, and social media is absolutely top of that list (ok, so not 18 *real* day time hours but this contains simultaneous consumption; an explanation of how that stat is calculated can be found here). Eighty-three percent of the UK population owns a smartphone and 39% prefer informal interactions online to standard corporate chat. This means the majority demands that charities are mobile friendly.
Technology is consistently ranked as one of the most important aspects of millennials’ lives, although 21% also want to help others in need. In short, millennials ‘care’.
The relationship between millennials and charities is a double-edged sword
Young people want to give. However, they are usually saddled with debt, are on lower relative salaries than the generations before them, and the old charity ‘high street’ of fundraising just doesn’t work for them. According to the report, 69% of millennials ‘actively dislike traditional fundraising techniques’. Whilst JustGiving and other platforms have changed the process of giving and brought it online, many charities are yet to create an ‘on-going’ and ‘always on’ relationship with millennials. By way of an example, young adults aged 18-24 are twice as likely to use their phones whilst visiting the bathroom – i.e. they are online in the loo (I’m 22 and can confirm this DOES happen).
So how can charities engage with this audience?
There are endless tools and guides on how to create a presence outside your normal nine-to-five hours so your online community can thrive. For instance, YouthNet often tweets when programmes about youth unemployment, debt and benefits are on the TV at 9pm or whatever. That flexibility and capacity to communicate in real time is key if you want to build up brand loyalty with this audience. And brand loyalty will inevitably offer charities the opportunity to convert millennials when their disposable income increases.
During the IoF presentation, when I tweeted about using mobiles in the loo, One Difference jumped in on the conversation and proceeded to joke with me about varying toilet habits. This is a good (if quirky) example of how to build an informal relationship with a person who may go on to become a brand ambassador and future giver.
Charities need to be equipped digitally or face losing out
From a strategic perspective, charities risk facing a digital skills crisis if they do not deal with this apparent gap in their teams. Many in the sector, including managers who were at the IoF Convention, mooted delegating responsibility for ‘digital’ to young interns and found it wildly radical when it was suggested that a charity could actually hire a millennial to deliver their digital agenda. After all, who is better placed to communicate with millennials than their fellow millennials? Not only could the sector fill its skills gap but this also allows organisations to develop an internal training team. This resonates strongly with an article released by 02 CEO Ronan Dunne in City Am in which he highlights that young people lack the support network to allow them to put their digital expertise to practical use. This is where charities and companies can step in.
Managers also need to think differently about how they work with their digital teams by considering flexible working and time off in lieu when a charity has to be particularly active outside of work hours. Of course young talent will have their own specific training needs beyond digital and that is where managers will have to step in and support them in developing the required skills. For the best lessons, we can look to the likes of Google, Facebook and many digital start-ups, most of whom shun traditional corporate behaviours. Curiously enough, these organisations are typically thriving and their staff are generally happy. Charities should learn from that.
Do you agree with Leon? Are there other ways that charities can engage with this demographic?