Helping United Way connect with young, impassioned and socially savvy citizens.
I’m beginning to despise the term “Millennial.” Members of this generation have been cast as spoiled and self-centered.
In truth, the Millennial generation is a hardworking and passionate group, very committed to their personal causes and more than willing to participate and belong, if you communicate and engage in ways that are relevant to them. At the same time, this group is living with high student debt in a world of salary caps and escalating costs of things like health insurance. They want and need control over their time and treasure when it comes to charitable giving.
With roots dating back to 1923, the United Way of South Hampton Roads (UWSHR) has staying power. Its army of staff members, donors, and volunteers works with companies and agencies to “help solve problems too big for any of us to solve alone.” But, as with most non-profits, connecting with and engaging the younger (call it the future) generation of donors is a challenge.
For the past four months, my colleagues and I have been working with UWSHR to tackle the challenge of building a communication strategy that reaches this group and tells the United Way story through channels and in ways that connect.
- Millennial preferences are becoming more than just preferences; they’re becoming the norm for all donors. The Millennial style of communication involves authentic stories and visual presentations that are concise, mobile-friendly, and delivered online via social media and video platforms.
- Organizations must invest time and resources into helping Millennials feel and experience the cause. Millennials are consistent in their desire to see exactly how time, talent, and dollars translate into people helped. They want their contributions—no matter what type or amount—to achieve actual results for a cause.
- Organizations must inspire Millennials to work through and with their cause, rather than for their organization. Ultimately, they want to lend their knowledge, expertise, and time to help the people or issues the organization touches—not necessarily the organization itself.
- Millennials can be an organization’s secret weapon when it comes to spreading the word about a cause or issue. Tools such as social media and peer fundraising put cause-marketing departments in the hands of this group. Because they’re aggressively taking on this unofficial marketing role, they are contributing to grassroots-oriented movements.
Working through this initiative meant taking stock of current usage of social platforms. Three critical planning elements emerged here:
1) Be sure to utilize the platform or outlet to deliver the type of content (visual, connective, responsive) that is most relevant to that audience.
2) Deliberately plan outbound messaging to communicate events and successes, stay engaged, and encourage volunteers to engage during live events.
3) Monitor messaging to engage and reward those who spread the word of the organization’s initiatives.
To help all of this happen, UWSHR now has a social media strategy map and plan, an event plan to give its annual Day of Caring (#dayofcaring)
a large social footprint, and, from the fun side, a series of tongue-in-check online-only (read “viral” here) videos that take its “Good Things Happen When You Give” campaign way over the top. All of this content gets shared and circulated via social channels to help connect and inform younger, more digitally savvy donors and volunteers, and you can find some of it on the UWSHR Facebook page, their YouTube Channel, or on their website at unitedwayshr.org.
The role of UWSHR is to “bring people and organizations together to solve problems too big for us to solve as individuals.” The challenge of connecting Hampton Roads’ passionate Millennial givers and volunteers with a mission as critical and impactful as that of United Way is a cause we can all engage in. Forward this note and like United Way wherever you are!
Read more about the United Way/Seventh Point partnership here.