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Marketers, We Have a Millennial Problem

I love my daughter. She’s neat.

And she’s uber-smart. During an exam she once calculated the math and physics required to successfully land a lunar module on the moon – prompting her to remark, "I've been forced to rethink jokes about rocket scientists."

This fall she’ll be joining the workforce as a mechanical engineer at a major pharmaceutical company. She’ll begin making decisions about how to manage her income and where to spend it as well. In fact, one day last summer she returned home after participating in a community event day with coworkers from the corporation she’d co-oped at for the past several years.

"Dad, have you heard of Habitat for Humanity? 
I built someone a house today! If they had an iPad or a way to give at the worksite I'd have donated right there."

This from a product of the ‘self-absorbed’ GenMe millennial generation?                                                      

To affinity, and beyond!

Beyond building homes for the homeless, my daughter has also expressed an affinity for environmental issues and how to effect change utilizing her engineering expertise.

And in yet another recent conversation she told me she and a friend were working with a car dealership to sponsor her in raising funds and running a 5k race for a cancer advocate organization.

She backed away remarking, “It became all about the money, not about the cause, or even the event.”

Unfortunately, that cancer advocate organization preyed on her interest, began hounding her for her credit card number and foisting a slew of potentially non-refundable fees and commitment asks under her nose – totaling over $1200. Furthermore, they subjected her to endless calls, email asks, and generally overlapping, pushy, and unclear communications.

Disillusioned and leery, my daughter backed away remarking, “It became all about the money, not about the cause, or even the event.”

She’s investigating ways to do good and where to devote her time and money. As I tally it, she’s already shown interest in healthcare, the environment, sustainability, and homelessness. What’s next? She is obviously seeking an organization she can respect and trust, a group that understands her, connects with her, and gets it when it comes to her communicating and giving preferences.

“Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing.”- Gene Kranz, Apollo 13 

So, I’m struck with several takeaways regarding her enthusiasm, interests, actions and reactions. For marketers, and particularly nonprofit fundraisers, all of whom have not handled her advocacy to her advantage, nor to their advantage, it is worth noting:

Regarding her Habitat for Humanity experience

•  My daughter opted to participate because she trusted her fellow engineers – and coworkers – in GenMe realms, real trust is key.

•  She’d never heard of Habitat? She's young and busy, what does she know of charitable organizations? – Never assume awareness, reach out.

•  Giving via an iPad was her first thought. – Know thy audience, their proclivities and preferences.

•  Habitat for Humanity projects are decidedly not self-absorbed activities. – Her experience was real and connected in every sense.

•  She fulfilled a need to connect with something bigger than herself. – Never discount the need for significance in us all.

Regarding her philanthropic interests at large

•  She recognizes that her talents can have a real impact on the world around her.

•  She’s willing to get involved, not just give, once real trust is established – also, friends are key.

•  She is leery of those who might take advantage of her.

It’s really not rocket science

The millennial generation longs for significance as much as any other generation, maybe more so. Fundraisers in particular can ill-afford to take a throw-your-hands-up, or wait-and-see, posture in response to reaching new generations for involvement and giving.

Unlike past generations, millennials demand a deeper level of trust, yet offer a deeper desire for involvement to go along with it. For marketers at large, properly capturing the hearts and minds of this emerging market is critical to the future of all organizations.

Those organizations that earnestly seek to understand, build trust, and engage with GenMe individuals – beyond basic relevancy – will be poised to capitalize and sustain an entirely new breed of committed consumers and constituents. 

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