More than once, I have heard from non-profit fundraisers that Gen Yers just don't "give," and therefore are not really a generation that is interested in "giving" or has not yet developed an interest.
This got me thinking, how do you define "giving"? If you define "giving" only in monetary terms: giving=hard cash for my organization to spend, then maybe yes, Gen Yers are not currently great "givers" but I think we have yet to determine whose ball the court is in with that one.
If you define "giving" more broadly, as I think we should when it come to charity and civic action, example of Gen Y giving abounds. Drive down the street of your city or town on any given weekend, and there is some kid holding up a sign for a "free car wash" that's raising funds for his local sports team and her local animal shelter. Those people with buckets on the corners of intersections collecting cash are often teens and college students. Teens and college students have all kinds of fundraisers to help support their favorite "causes" and even if the local basketball team is not necessarily a charitable one, it certainly shows that young people are happy to get involved and land a hand when properly motivated.
The key here is that for many young people charitable giving and civic auction are on a local level-for the local school, local shelter, local playground. Transitioning them to care about more "global" issues and to volunteer for causes they may not benefit them directly.
A great story on NPR this week called "Blood Banks Target High School Donors" introduced us to Sophie Davis of Eugene, OR, who had no only given blood herself, but helped organized blood drives at her school. As Sophie explains, after a few not-so-successful drives without high turnout, she decided to get involved because she realized that kids weren't being "marketed" to the proper way--Sophie discovered that people who were donating blood were doing so because someone had asked them to; and inversely, not donating because they said they had never heard about it (even though there were fliers posted) and did not know they could. So Sophie stepped in to get more kids involved.
"...the most effective method we utilized was that I visited about 14 classes and talked directly to students about the blood drive," she says.
"I handed out fliers. That way, kids were told about donating blood firsthand."
By visiting the classrooms, Sophie was also able to answer questions like "will it hurt," "am I eligible to donate?"
Why did Sophie do all this?
"It's an odd feeling knowing that this blood will go into someone else's body and help heal them," she says. "You don't know whose body it will go into, but it will go to someone in need. And actually, one donation can save three lives. So you know you're doing a lot to help."
You may think Sophie is an exception, but I think there are thousands of Sophies out there, and more importantly, millions of people, who given a chance to be motivated by someone like Sophie, will become "givers."
One thing that the story about clearly indicates about Gen Y, and something Sophie used to help motivate herself and others, is their focus on the self-the "what's in it for me" and not in the negative way. Giving blood gave Sophie the satisfaction of knowing that she could save up to three lives. By recruiting other, Sophie knew she was potentially saving hundreds, if not thousands more lives. She made sure to describe all the benefits of giving blood in each and every classroom she visited.
If you have tried, and failed, to market to Gen Yers, or if you have tried, and are being successful at marketing to them, take a look at your collateral and ask yourself: does it emphasize my need as an organization or the benefit to the donor for giving to me? Who is at the center stage of my creative-my projects or my donors? I am not saying we should not speak about the need, but when we do, do we make clear to donors exactly how their money is going to help? What project their money will go to? Who will their donation benefit and how? Most importantly, have you put your marketing out where the donors are?
In Sophie's school, fliers were put up around the schools, but no a lot of people noticed. When Sophie got up in front of classes and had their undivided attention, they noticed. Is your marketing collateral in "places" it will get noticed? Who are your "Sophies" and how are they spreading the word to younger people about your need?
While this is not related to Gen Y, on my local NPR stations this week, there were two great pieces about how the economic downturn is affecting D.C. area non-profits and how they are dealing with the difficult economic times. I great listen for anyone involved in non-profits, not just in the DC area. A favorite quote is someone noting that because fundraising hinges on developing a relationship with donors, it should be called "friendraising."
In order to listen to the stories go to www.wamu.org/news and scroll down until you see the two stories:
Part 1: "Nonprofits are struggling to keep up with increasing demand for services"-Filed May 20
Part 2: "D.C.-area non-profits plan for uncertain future."-Filed May 21
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