Best practices for engaging millennial volunteers

Managing Volunteers / Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Not all Millennials are hipsters.

The millennial (M) generation, 18 to 34-years-old, often get a bad rep from older generations. The more-biased ones scoff that they are a tech-obsessed, scarf wearing, coffee snob group that has lost all sense of character and meaning.

Ironically, Millennials contain an intense desire for meaning and dream of being apart of something they believe in.

“This generation, more than any other, needs to feel impact,” Nonprofit Technology Network’s Kevin Wolf said. “They’ll be the biggest generation yet in embracing causes.”

Which makes them the perfect match for nonprofits. In order to effectively engage M’s, first organizations need to understand them. To accomplish this heady task Achieve, a research consulting organization, has conducted Millennial Impact Reports for the last four years. Their goal is to better understand the mindset, values and drives of Millennials and their 30-some page reports cover everything from detailed strategy explanation and website layout to building company engagement milestones.

Below are my conclusions of one of their findings — engaging Millennials through effective electronic user experiences.

  • Connect with M’s primarily through social media They will visit your website to get to know you, not to stay in touch.
  • Interact as a conversation, not a monologue Use Facebook and Twitter feeds to start conversations, not diatribes.
  • M’s use phones far more than computers It’s critical to design every interface to be mobile-friendly.
  • Focus on the group M’s are communal, want to involve and share with their network.
  • Convenient donation options Easy avenues such as website and phone options are the simples way to bring in the bacon
  • Make Meaning Convince respondents that their vote counts, create a definite sense of urgency within content to make a clear call to action and emotionally engage volunteers before asking for donations or time. “They want to give to have an impact,” Conway said.

Lastly, since Millennials rarely revisit websites, it’s vital that nonprofits play their social media cards well. The biggest challenge is prolonging engagement and to achieve that, focus on:

  1. Company updates
  2. Success stories
  3. Pictures
  4. Call to advocacy

A management consultant recently advised me that, “The key to success in any business is understanding what motivates people.”

To succeed as nonprofits, you have to realize that the up-and-coming workforce is the Millennials and that in order to move your organization into the future, you have to understand their value system. Therefore, nonprofits have to measure their success by their ability to connect, interact and inspire.

“This generation, more than any other, needs to feel impact,” Nonprofit Technology Network’s Kevin Wolf said. “They’ll be the biggest generation yet in embracing causes.”

Ultimately, the vision can’t end with fat donations or impressive volunteer numbers. You need to inspire Millennials to share your organization’s stories by telling a tale worth sharing. I once asked a marketing specialist why branding, blogging and websites were so important. Her biting response was simple but true.

“You can have a great idea and a great company, but it doesn’t really matter if no one knows about it.”