Turning Social Media Millennials into Engaged Activists


Over the past several years there’s been a question vexing non-profit organizations: how to attract the newest generation of philanthropists and turn them into active and engaged supporters, in essence how to turn social-media mavens into boots-on-the-ground activists and volunteers able to further a cause through hand-on involvement.

Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher on the Millennial Impact Project and president of Achieve, a research and creative agency for cause-related organizations, has taken this problem to heart and become one of the leading voices for engaging young people to support today’s non-profit groups.

Some of the main themes gleaned from Feldmann’s work should come as little surprise to those active in the non-profit world: Millennials use the power of social media “to influence their networks and share their causes.” Indeed, 88 percent are active on Facebook and 59 percent are on Twitter. And Feldmann’s research has shown that they engage with causes “because they want to help people, not institutions. They support issues instead of organizations.”

Furthermore, research from the Millennial Impact Project demonstrates that this generation treats time and money as equal: they share information about a non-profit’s cause because they truly want to help spread a message, not just because they want to share some arbitrary content.

So what are some strategies that non-profit organizations can do to encourage them to act beyond the “retweet” or “share” buttons? Feldmann offers these ideas and tactics.

  • Offer Millennials a chance to engage in low-time commitment opportunities such as helping at an event fundraiser. Pushing them to get involved too heavily and too soon may drive down their interest and tax their support of your cause.
  • Feldmann notes that Millennials take peer influence seriously, so offer opportunities to help based on group, friend and colleague interaction. For instance, Feldmann notes that “46 percent of Millennial employees are more likely to make donation if a co-worker asks them to.”
  • Everyone likes to witness the positive effects their time and money can have, and Millennials are no exception. So be sure to make them feel needed by utilizing the unique skills they possess and allowing them to express those skills in support of your mission.
  • As with any other donor or supporter base, Millennials want to know exactly how their support will help your cause, so be informative and transparent. As Feldmann found, “79 percent of Millennial employees who volunteer through a company-sponsored initiative feel they make a difference through their involvement.” Communication, therefore, is key.
  • Whether they’re seeking to climb the corporate ladder or want to take a more prominent role in your non-profit’s efforts, Millennials thrive on leadership opportunities based on their specific passions for a cause. So once they’ve demonstrated the difference their hard work can make, reward them with more responsibility within your organization.


Creating Digital Destinations that Build Communities and Change Lives.

Our nonprofit clients consistently tell us their biggest challenges are improving donor engagement and promoting their mission online. At Byte Technology, we understand that creating a successful online presence for non-profits isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” undertaking. By choosing the right tools for your organization, Byte Technology can help you create online strategies that foster engagement with your volunteers, patrons and donors specifically—allowing you the capability to build stronger relations with the people that matter to your organization most.

Learn more about Byte Technology’s strategic web consulting for nonprofits.

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