While members of the Millennial Generation, now the largest generation in our nation’s history, are widely known for a desire to give back to their communities or be part of large social change movements – the way Millennials define their engagement tends to be very different from the way organizations do.
When you ask a Millennial, “Do you support a nonprofit or social cause?” The resounding answer is, “Yes!” When you follow that up by asking, “How do you support that organization?” You’re likely to hear answers like, I signed a petition, changed my avatar on Twitter, or liked them on Facebook.
Now, ask an organization if Millennials are supporting their cause, and they say, “No, we just can’t figure out how to reach them.” There in lies the disconnect between Millennials who believe they are supporting activism versus what organizations see as truly engaged participation.
With that in mind, organizations must embrace the notion that how they define engagement will be different. A one-size-fits-all approach is nearly impossible and will only meet the needs of a small segment of your audience – typically the super-engaged Millennials.
So, how do we convert a new generation of organizational champions into loyal and passionate advocates and donors? And how can we best position organizations so they are able to capture the limited time, dollars and attention spans of a generation always on the go? We’ll be the first to say, there’s no silver bullet. But there are a few concepts that we introduce in Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement that we hope will help your organization navigate this ever-changing space.
In Cause for Change, we introduce the Virtuous Cycle of Engagement as the core to building an organization’s Millennial engagement strategy. Here’s what the Cycle looks like – starting with the inquisitive and conscious consumer and moving toward deeper engagement as activists and ultimately true influencers or peer agents.
A huge conference like the NTC always fills me with tons of ideas and a renewed determination to work smarter, fail faster, and build stronger professional relationships. And then...I get back to my desk. Monday comes. News headlines distract me, my to-do list grows, and I have to work hard to sustain the energy that was so palpable just days before.
Sound familiar? If you haven’t digested or implemented all of your takeaways from the conference—or if you couldn’t make it, and are itching to connect with fellow nonprofit techies—you may want to check out the NTEN Communities of Practice (CoPs).
The 12 different CoPs are made up of people who meet here on our site to discuss shared interests all year round. Each operates a little differently, according to the needs and preferences of their members. For example, Ivan Boothe and Johanna Bates, the moderators of the Drupal CoP, host a monthly Q&A phone call about all things Drupal for practitioners at all skill levels. (Intrigued? There’s one this Thursday.)
Meanwhile, the many devoted organizers of the CoP known as CommBuild have found weekly tweet chats most useful. If you’re a community organizer, online community manager, or interested in breaking into a similar field, log onto Twitter next Tuesday at 10am Pacific and search for the hashtag #CommBuild – a rich, welcoming discussion will await you.
And those are just two examples. Want to dip your toes in the water?
Peruse the list of CoPs and join the ones that resonate with you. Note that most of the groups are open to the public, but some do have specific membership guidelines and we ask that you honor those. (For example, you’ll notice that the IT Directors group is designed specifically for nonprofit CTOs, CIOs, IT Directors, or MIS Managers. If you don’t fit that profile, please steer clear of that group or touch base with the moderators before joining.)
Set your my.nten.org notifications to receive email updates so you don’t miss any group activity. Some people opt for daily or weekly digests, but I find the activity level to be manageable, and the conversation most useful, when I receive them in real time.
Imagine you’re meeting the group members in person. What would you hope to discuss? Share an article that fired you up or a blog post you wrote. Ask questions. Chime in with solutions, success or failure stories, ideas. These groups are what you make them.
Why wait until the next annual conference to get help, learn something, or make new friends in your field? You’ve got a vibrant community of nonprofit tech champions right at your fingertips.
The Chronicle uses online fundraising data provided quarterly by Blackbaud, Network for Good, and PayPal to analyze online giving. The percentage changes above show an analysis of online donations to a fixed group of organizations during the second through fourth quarters of 2012, compared with donations to this same group made during the same period in 2011.
Those were the words of said Kristen Jaarda, senior vice president at Crescendo Interactive in Camarillo, Calif., during a session at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 2013 International Conference on Fundraising (ICON) in San Diego, Calif.
Stories are at the top of the format heap right now, because they work. Although they’ve been around forever (the Lascaux cave paintings in SW France are 17,000 years old), most of us still thrill to good stories on pages and screens.Why We Respond to Stories
Stories help us make sense of a world that can be hard to understand. Lisa Cron, author of the wonderful Wired for Story, clarifies that stories drive emotions and emotions drive decisions. We count on our emotions to help us break through the clutter of the 3,000 messages we’re bombarded with each day.
In research on the brain, scientists have found that hearing a story rather than simply reading text fires up a richer set of connectors, it sparks emotions, it summons up connections with memories, and so “you remember things when they’re in a storytelling format two to seven times more than you do than if you just get the text,” she says.
Use This Insight to Shape Stories that Motivate Action
Once you define a clear and doable action you want your listener or viewer to take, brainstorm on how to best connect her with the information or call to action (CTA) you want to share.
Although most of us are lucky enough to have always had a place to live, we do know what it feels like to feel alone, be pressured by bills and/or struggle to pull it all together. So we can relate to those aspects of the Roberts’ story, and that makes the story relevant and more likely to be acted on and shared.Early grade teachers know this and center connections at the core of teaching reading and writing. But us communicators usually forget it. Change that!
But there’s more—Story-Fueled Connections Spur Trust, Rapport and Sustained Action plus Expand Your Base
You want your listener to take action because they want to—not because they’ve been told to.
When you shape your organization’s stories to enable listeners to connect your info with what they already know, you’re far more likely to build trust and rapport with them. In turn, this group relationship is most likely to be transformative, motivating their desire to take action, now and in the future, and to spread your stories/messages to friends and family.
How are you shaping your stories to motivate action? Please share yours if you think it’s working, or share your questions or challenges if you want some guidance. P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a 5-star storyteller, please email me here. I’m introducing a storytelling e-clinic this summer, and want you to be the first to know. Thanks!
Part 1: This is Getting in Your Way, Stories Will Help
Part 2: Six Story Types to Tell
Part 3: How to Tell Your Founding Story
Part 4: How to Tell Your Focus Story
Part 5: How to Tell Your Success Stories
Part 6: How to Tell Your People Stories
Part 7: How to Tell Your Future Story