Higher ed institutions around the country are struggling to connect with millennial alumni. One of the most philanthropic generations ever, they're quick to support a variety of causes, but also less interested in giving back to their alma mater. Why the disconnect? Advancement organizations are primed to appeal to generosity and tradition, but engaging millennials requires institutions to connect with these graduates in different ways that speak to their particular preferences. Here are three insights that will help you engage your younger alumni:
They want to give to causes, not organizations.
The most powerful way to engage millennials is through a cause they care about. The more they know about who and what they’re giving to and the impact of their potential gift, the more they will want to help. Millennials strive for a world in which conditions are better than they are today and will continue to get better for everyone. According to the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, millennials are interested in causes/social issues relevant to quality of life for the greatest part of the population and/or marginalized or disenfranchised individuals or groups. Harness this dissatisfaction with the status quo and demonstrate how your young alumni can be part of the solution through your institution.
They want to give on their own terms.
Young alumni will likely be more excited to support your institution if you give them many different ways to give back. For millennials, their time, money, and personal networks all have equal value. So ask them to share news about your institution on social media, to serve on a young alumni council, or to offer job opportunities to students and fellow alumni before asking them to open their wallets. This prepares them for long-term relationships that run much deeper than a single donation. Then, once they are ready to provide financial support, make sure you meet them where they are – online! Convenience is key with millennials, and it’s important to offer multiple methods of giving through online donation forms, mobile, crowdfunding platforms, and your school’s social pages.
They want authentic content.
Millennials see through many of the marketing techniques that worked just fine with their parents’ generation. The 2014 Engaging Millennials: Trust & Attention survey revealed that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. And in their book, Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever, authors Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton write that millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts (who happen to be strangers) than advertisements and 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites than the average shopper. While this is a major shift for marketers, it’s also an enormous opportunity to take a targeted approach to your alumni engagement strategy. The key to creating tailored communications is understanding what matters most to your key target audiences. Conducting regular market research with your younger post-grads will help you build an informed strategy that fuels your institution’s engagement and fundraising efforts.
Millennials aren’t just a subset of your alumni population; they’re your institution’s upcoming leaders, board members, and donors. And the future of giving rests in their hands.