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How to Engage Millennials for High Impact

October 31, 2017

Everyone is curious about us.


Each time I put the word “Millennial” on any type of workshop, training or seminar, the room fills up. I’ve been delightfully overwhelmed by sold out workshops, packed conference sessions and overflowing webinar attendance. And as much as I love knowing I am designing something that there is clearly a need for, understanding this next generation of funders and activists, I feel that there is also a critical need to discuss what it really means to not only engage “those born between 1982 and 2000” but how to integrate individuals of all ages into our organizations to enhance the diversity of perspectives that could truly make us all future forward.


At Opportunity Collaboration, an “unconference” held each year in Mexico, I hosted a discussion about how the social change sector can better begin to engage Millennial funders and invite them to long term partnership within their missions. I presented a basic framework I’ve been designing, rooted in the research presented in the 2016 Millennial Impact Report and based on my own experience stewarding this brave, wild and tech savvy generation. so here it goes: everything you do within your organization needs to be Authentic, Actionable and Accessible in order for a Millennial to choose to become a committed change agent to your cause. I shared these three “A’s” to frame our conversation at the OC and instantly, the room was full of questions and ideas.


Organizations from Peru to Slovakia, Uganda to Australia began a vibrant conversation on the patio of the conference center and as the waves crashed behind us, a list of insights, best practices and creative ideas arose from the collective wisdom. Here I share one of the insights that arose from our time together, discovering how we all can begin to better steward this socially conscious and tech savvy generation.


FACT: Research shows that Millennials demand transparency from organizations and leaders more so than any other generation yet, especially when it comes to vision and impact.


FIELD STORY: In a recent board meeting at a grassroots human rights organization, a potential Millennial board member attended to learn more and consider taking on a board role. The individual asked a variety of questions ranging from long term strategic plans to founder succession. Upon learning that there was no succession plan in place and an unwillingness from the board chair and Founder to discuss such with the individual, he declined the role and in doing so, took a new network of both wealth and wisdom that could have deeply benefitted the struggling organization with him. 


IDEA: Make sure you are always aware of longer term goals, beyond a three or five year strategic plan. Millennials see decades ahead of them and are firm believers that there are enough resources out there to achieve vision. They are less likely to have scarcity mindset, especially if they are in the technology or financial industries. Make sure your organization has both a strategic plan and vision statement with loose 7-10 year goals that can be shared with potential Millennial donors and advocates. Find creative ways to integrate this into your messaging and communications. I suggest hosting a “Visionary Hour” where you interview someone working in the field on Facebook LIVE discussing how the work they are currently doing is connected to the organizations vision statement. As a follow up, encourage those who attend the LIVE stream to sign up for a special list serve where that field worker, and others, will share personal messages and updates that culminate in some type of event in-person or online event. Build community amongst these individuals and see their engagement as movement building, not one-off events. Keep momentum and drive the fact that you need their insight, engagement, expertise ad wisdom to make this happen. Millennials want to be active in achieving vision alongside you. Help them make it happen.


We are learning so much about Millennials these days. Just a few weeks from now, we will see the results of the last part of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report. As this research comes out, know that it does provide insight, but there is no better knowledge than what one harvests from direct experience. So, get out there. Talk to Millennials connected to your cause. Talk to your kids, nieces and nephews and grandkids. Don’t start engaging us when it’s too late. Historically, most people do not think about philanthropy and volunteering until they are near retirement. As organizations, we can work to change that. Collect the energy and wisdom of youth now. In doing so, I very much believe we will accelerate the pace by which we drive change.


Let’s get going. Together.




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