Chelsea Alves
Chelsea Alves
5 min
Millennials gathering together to take a selfie

Empowering Millennials of All Ages

The Millennial Generation is perhaps the most analyzed, marketed to and puzzling generation to date. It is a generation of extremely ambitious individuals who not only set high standards for themselves, but for those around them, including their families, communities, and brands. This generation has been shaped by tragic world events such as 9/11 and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The result of growing up in this era is a group of people who have developed a strong social conscience and are motivated to give back to their community. The Center for Giving’s survey of millennials found that 64% of respondents stated they donated money towards a cause and 63% volunteered time to support a cause.

Researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss define millennials “as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter.” In 2012, they acknowledged the end point as 2004. This means that both today’s 32-year-olds and 11-year-olds are considered millennials. With such a broad range of ages, it is impossible to effectively empower every millennial with the same approach. Different segments of the millennial cohort must be rallied around different interest points. The best way to start empowering different groups within the millennial cohort is to fully understand what motivates them.

Teen Millennials

Teen Millennials, ages 13-17, are closer to their parents than ever before — seen as confidants and friends rather than a force to rebel against. While teens enjoy forging strong family bonds, their friends also play an integral role in social development.

Teen Millennials don’t just connect with the world via social networking, they also take pride in the role they play in their communities. A study by the White House found high school seniors today are more likely today than previous generations to state that making a contribution to society is very important to them and that they want to be leaders in their communities.

Experimental research has found empowering Teen Millennials to become change agents is best accomplished through role-modeling and conversations about charitable giving. A study conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the United Nations Foundation found that teens accompanying parents in their volunteer work, donating clothes, toys and books they no longer need, helping neighbors, and encouraging teens to give a portion of his/her allowance to help those less fortunate positively affects giving efforts. Schools, too, are involving teens in service learning — with community service a frequent part of school curriculum.

To get Teen Millennials to give, tailor your messaging to appeal to teens as well. You never know if your cause is followed closely by their parents.

College-Aged Millennials

College-age millennials, ages 18-22, are accustomed to high expectations and therefore are motivated to succeed in all aspects of life. Because of this, college applications are soaring and the acceptance process has become quite rigorous. Still, college-aged millennials believe they are capable of achieving great things and have no reason to believe they can’t.

College-age millennials frequently give to causes through social and academic groups, as evidenced by fraternity/sorority philanthropy events. In one example, Alpha Sigma Phi chapter at the University of Michigan used a peer-to-peer fundraising model. Fraternity members set up their own fundraising pages, asking family, friends and loved ones to donate to the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Initially seeking to raise $15,000, they ended up raising over $35,000 — exceeding their goal by 134 percent.

In another example, Delta Gamma Sorority’s nationwide chapters hold an annual Anchor Splash competition, consisting of swimming races, relays and a synchronized swimming event to raise funds for Service For Sight. So far, the sorority has raised close to $2,800,000 for organizations which share their mission to help visually impaired children and adults. Other creative ways college-age millennials commonly fundraise for causes are through organizing a food sale, selling used designer clothing, setting up a restaurant fundraiser, planning a date auction, or connecting with local bars to donate a portion of proceeds during a pub crawl.

To encourage charitable giving with College Millennials, connect with local college campuses to get involved with an organization that fundraises.

Young Adult Millennials

Young Adult Millennials, ages 23-27, are taking on more serious responsibilities. However, this generation also has mastered the art of prolonging adolescence, with some opting to move back home with his or her parents after graduating college or traveling before entering the workforce. Those Young Adult Millennials who are working do not let their jobs consume them and make social pursuits their main priorities.

Many of these social pursuits involve giving back to causes young adults are passionate about. In fact, a 2015 Millennial Impact Report found that more than 6,500 people ages 20 to 35 are inclined to give — and are more than willing to ask their friends and relatives to do the same. 84% of those respondents made a charitable donation in 2014 and 30% donated through an online giving platform.

Working young adult millennials are also prompted to give to causes tied to their workplace. The same report found that 48% of millennials have donated to a giving campaign promoted by their employer at some point in their lives. Millennial employees in the report were 69% more likely to give if their company offered to match part of their donation.

Young Adult Millennials are also prompted to give back to causes closely tied to their hobbies. Running events such as 5Ks, half marathons and full marathons have become incredibly popular in the young adult millennial community, appealing to millennials more than many other fundraising mechanisms. Because running is accessible to almost everyone, relatively inexpensive, and promotes a culture of physical fitness — many millennials are drawn to participate in these events. Furthermore, raising additional money for long-distance runs through peer-to-peer fundraising empowers participants to make an even bigger impact.

Not all millennials are exactly the same, but all have the potential to impact your nonprofit organization for the better. Spending time to fully understand each generation of Millennials could mean gaining lifelong supporters and advocates of your brand. No matter the age of a Millennial, all are capable and willing to bring positive change to the world.


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