A Millennial's Perspective

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Why Nonprofits Should Care About Millennials and Why We're Not Entitled Narcissists

In 2013 Time ran a cover story, titled "The Me-Me-Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents."

The article’s author, renowned journalist Joel Stein, cited studies that indicate millennials are significantly more narcissistic than older generations of Americans.

But as many of us know, that’s merely one way to look at the largest generation since the baby boomers. While Stein's piece examined the overwhelming negative data about millennials, he also argues that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are simply adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change.

Who We Really Are

I can say that we’re optimistic, we’re confident and we’re pragmatic in a time when it can be difficult to just get by doing the minimum—being average. In this our current state of rapid technological and economic change, optimism, confidence and pragmatism aren’t bad qualities to have.

We see many young people everyday who are disrupting society with social actions that reverse social norms, make industries more transparent, reduce the cost of goods and services, and provide for people in need.

So what you can learn from Stein’s article is not to discard or discount millennials, but rather, open your minds to new methods of communication and new approaches to target this very particular and exceptional upcoming donor base.

How Millennials Use Technology

Let's take a look at how millennials use technology for social action. Millennials are constantly online, and therefore, easier to call to immediate action via social media sites.

Online Giving

In the last decade or so, there has been a dramatic shift towards online giving and millenials are playing no small role:

  • About 87% of young people who provided data for the 2014 Millennial Impact Report said they gave money to a nonprofit in the last year
  • 28% gave between $100 and $500 to their charity of choice
  • Millennials give to charities. And they give to have an impact – they really want to see tangible results of their giving.

Mobile Usage

  • 84% of millennials surveyed have smartphones
  • 45% of 18 to 29-year-olds who use the Internet on their cell phones do most of their online browsing on them.

Social Media

  • 55% of American adults age 35 and under use Facebook everyday
  • 75% of millennials like, share and retweet content on social media
  • 51% of millennials have connected with a nonprofit on social media after visiting their website

What This Means for Nonprofits

Organizations must be ready to change marketing styles to reach people online, via text messaging and social media, and to get their messages across quickly - we millennials have shorter attention spans.

Constantly keeping in touch with each other via text messages, Twitter, and Facebook has made us feel more powerful. And we can be - by mobilizing our social networks. So ask us for help!

How We Can Help

Millennials are already giving time, money and energy to nonprofits. Here are some ways we're comfortable getting involved:

  1. Millennials participate at micro levels before moving to highly involved states of cause action. We do this on Facebook, for example through “liking,” commenting, and posting, to emailing, calling, and finally, meeting. This level of engagement can give nonprofits a big boost in spreading the word about your causes.
  2. Millennials participate with peers/family in small groups and like to sign petitions, share content with each other, and keep up with nonprofits through email and text updates.
  3. Millennials act when organizations openly state realistic solutions for how we can help.

How to Engage Us

  1. Micro-Giving. Create small, tangible activities for millennials to support.
  2. Group Challenges.  Find fun ways that millennials can work with friends or family to achieve something for your organization.
  3. Encourage Creativity.  Present ideas that your millennial fans can take and run with. We’ll come up with ideas better than you would imagine.

As millennials, we are people who care about causes and who have new ideas to help causes in a globalizing economy. Reach out to us and you’ll see that we can bring dynamism and creativity to your organization, and help you continue to grow in this constantly changing world because millennials ARE powerful.

So, thanks Joel Stein. Maybe we are somewhat self-obsessed, but at least we want attention for the good things we’re doing in the world!

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Time Magazine.