Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.” As I look at my nephews and nieces – members of the increasingly fluid “Generation Z” – I can’t help but realize their generation’s “books” will be comprised mostly of tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos. What a change from my generation – “Generation X” – a generation reared amid the cultural changes of the late 60’s and 70’s.

millennial giveYet sandwiched between Gen X’ers and the (current) children of Generation Z is the most powerful generation impacting everything we do: the Millennials. Often referred to as “Generation Y,” Millennials are changing the established attitudes of my generation and influencing those in Z, particularly when it comes to charitable giving. Why are Millennials so powerful? For starters, they’re driven by the growing influence of social media and mobile technologies. Millennials rely on these technologies for everything from news to keeping in touch, and by 2025 – just 11 years from now – they will make up the majority of the world’s population.

The current economic climate coupled with this increasingly technology-savvy generation proves that not-for-profits must adapt to the changes afoot or risk losing their donor base. Simply put, the old way of doing things is on the decline as new forms of communication continue to grow. Thus, organizations need to lay the technological groundwork to entice Millennials into giving. To be successful in the long term, not-for-profits will need to adopt the technologies that put them in front of this rising generation.

Which brings us to the second half of Emerson’s quote. The folks in charge of today’s donor relations departments – likely members of my own generation – must author the strategies needed to succeed as Millennials begin to exercise greater influence within their donor bases. In fact, I see a few trends already taking shape which will only grow increasingly prominent: 

  • Actions speak louder than data. Not-for-profits need to focus their attention on how to act on the data at hand. Many not-for-profits simply don’t realize the power they have at their fingertips, which means they risk losing out on the incredibly accessibly generation at hand.

  • Using Big Data to analyze and predict prospect and donor behavior. Big data can enable not-for-profits to focus efforts on the most qualified prospects and donors for today and the future. The amount of data from the digital footprint left behind by individuals is enormous. As the price to analyze this data continues to decline, not-for-profits will join the for-profit sector in leveraging big data to make better business decisions.

  • Millennials are passionate about passion – as long as it fits within 140 characters. It’s best to devise a compelling (brief) narrative that serves as the primary message. Not-for-profits could benefit to think of their message as a Twitter feed. This allows for focused messages and the opportunity to analyze their data as such.

Do you think it’s important that not-for-profits shift their attention toward Millennials? Leave a comment below.