Millennials are a generation that is distrustful of many of the institutions that earlier generations trusted, including nonprofit organizations. Millennials strongly think that they will be worse off than their parents with some experts agreeing. With anxiety about money in general, nonprofits face a generation of people who don’t understand why they should have to pay for the operating expenses, including salaries, of charities.

With approximately a third of Americans distrusting of nonprofit organizations, and with the natural distrust and frustration that Millennials have with traditional institutions, nonprofits increasingly face unique challenges as Millennials gain more earning power and leadership roles.

The importance of transparency

Above all else, transparency is fundamental to have any chance of attracting Millennials who have been raised in an era of significant social change. One of the practical ways to demonstrate transparency is by obtaining a high rating by Guidestar, which are ranked bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Nonprofits that have earned their Guidestar seal have experienced an increase of about 53 percent in contributions. For those charities that have earned silver status, there’s been an increase of approximately 26 percent over bronze status. Being transparent requires nonprofits to fully and publicly be open about their leadership, financials, and measurable impact. Additionally, in the age of social media, where transparency is a paramount value for Millennials who can spot phoniness quickly and will call it out.

Authenticity follows

The best nonprofit leaders understand that they have to be transparent, but another crucial value that accompanies transparency is authenticity. Millennials have lived much of their lives on social media, and they care about people and brands that are authentic. Millennials expect to engage in a meaningful relationship with a nonprofit they might support, and in the digital era, a lot of it will take place in a public space, such as social media. Unlike previous generations, Millennials expect to see a lot of the information provided by nonprofit brands on social media in ways that are genuine, not contrived, and certainly not with any slickly produced content.

No impact, no money

With distrust of institutions and the natural inclination for skepticism, nonprofits must demonstrate impact to have any chance of obtaining support from Millennials. It’s vital to tell not only the stories of people, animals or things that are served by your nonprofit, but also to show the measurable impact that is being made. Millennials have to understand how many people are helped by your soup kitchen or how many times children are mentored in a given year.  They want stories, but accurate statistics and facts must also be included in the narrative.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity

Millennials are all about diversity and inclusion. Period. They want to see in any organization they support, including nonprofits, representation by gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., But, not only do they want to see diversity and inclusion, but they go further in wanting to see that organizations are fair in their treatment of their employees and everyone they serve. With Millennials, nonprofit board members and executives have to treat their teams equitably, including with salaries, and with full and meaningful inclusion and diversity on every level. If a nonprofit does not demonstrate diversity, inclusion, and equity, it will not attract Millennials who care very much about the actual implementation of these values.

It’s not only about money

Nonprofits have become accustomed to asking for money, but Millennials are not interested in supporting organizations that are just looking to ask them to give their money. That’s not a meaningful relationship for Millennials. As noted earlier, Millennials want to see a social impact, and they want to support organizations that make a difference in all kinds of creative ways that are socially responsible. That’s why unique fundraisers, such as shoe drive fundraisers, that help raise money without asking for money, the environment and micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries is a great way to engage Millennials.


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