Last year I had the opportunity to present at an annual conference that provided workshops to fundraising professionals, volunteer coordinators and board members for an organization that provides affordable home ownership to low-income families . During my session “Millennials: Today’s Volunteer, Tomorrow’s Major Gift Donor,” we talked about engaging Millennials as volunteers and donors. Strategies included developing young professional networks, providing professional development and leadership opportunities, and, of course, actively using social media.
In addition, we talked about using your Millennial volunteers as Influencers for your organization. Influencers are those smart, vibrant, spunky people you love to be around. They know many people and have the ability and resources to pull people together and inspire them to take action. I suggested that they use the Influencers engaged in the organization’s work to go out and speak to their peers about the great work happening in the community. A hand immediately shot in the air. “How do I know what they will say? I’m worried that they might not be able to answer the questions about what it is our organization does.” Well, this posting is for you.
Before we get started, you’re probably wondering why this is necessary and why you should spend time and resources to seek your Influencers and provide these opportunities?
As we have talked about in the past, Millennials are social creatures. They crave opportunities to come together with friends and like-minded individuals to network, talk about their community, and to just have a good time. Using the Influencers in your network who are already engaged in your work has low cost to the organization, but the possibility of amazing outcomes. Plus, if you are one of those Boomers who believe that Millennials are narcissus, you can also see how this works. What Millennial wouldn’t love to get a room of their friends together to brag about the great work they are doing in the community? Also, as you see below, Millennials love volunteer opportunities that allow them to interact, plan events, or work with their friends/family.
Source: 2011 Millennial Impact Report
In addition, one of the top ways Millennials respond that they prefer to learn about an organization is through a peer endorsement. Imagine the impact an appeal or volunteer recruitment effort has when your closest friends shares how they personally benefited from the organzation. A friend will also knows that Tuesday is your Netflix and pizza night, and will then be able to motivate you to change your Tuesday night routine to come on board as a volunteer.
Source: 2011 Millennial Impact Report
Finally, when asked how they prefer to make a pledge, nearly half responded that they prefer to give through a personal request. While giving online was the number one preference, the survey showed that the number one way Millennials actually made gifts was through a personal request. Just like the ‘olden days, the person-to-person appeal continues to be the most successful way to secure gifts.
While Influencers can be great at reaching new audiences for your organization, the end result ultimately lies with the organization. Be sure that you have unique volunteer and giving opportunities that match the needs and desires of the Millennials you want volunteering with your organization. Ask yourself if your website and social media tells the story about your organization in a way that Millennials will be compelled to advance your issues and mission.
Below are some final tips for your organization as you move forward in preparing to tap into the Millennial network:
1. Make sure your organization is prepared. Identify or develop a staff liaison, work space, volunteer description, budget, or any other requirements necessary for your organization to start the process of using your Influencers.
2. Ask your Influencers how their peer network can impact your organization? What ideas do they have about engaging their peers and community on your issues? What can you do to help them?
3. Provide training by giving your Influencers opportunities to present and practice with board members, staff, volunteers and donors who can provide valuable feedback. (Remember, Millennials want to network and meet the leaders of your organization.)Develop materials that will be used by the Influencers to talk about your organization.
4. Create a “Speakers Bureau” that provides a structured volunteer opportunity specifically for Millennials seeking short term assignments. Have them contact their sorority, church groups, friends and other local organizations to set up speaking engagements.
5. In partnership with staff, encourage your Influencers to create content that can be quickly shared on social media. You will surprised at the creative talent your Influencers might have in creating snap chat videos, memes, or gifs.
What are the concerns that you have about using this method? What are some ways that your organization has used Millennials to advance your work? Let me know your thoughts!