Building Blocks

Raising our community one story at a time.


Are you thinking about millennials?

August 19, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to enter the ‘workforce’. How do I gracefully transition from my academic safe place to the real world? What do I wear to the office? To that luncheon? To that gala? When is the right time to speak up and when is the right time to listen? Am I the only one that feels like they are in perpetual networking mode? I mean seriously, I met my boyfriend for happy hour last week and gave my card to 4 of his friends and suggested career moves for them. Is this normal behavior? I hope so.

A couple months ago I attended the Indiana University Annual Sustainability training presented by AFP. Actually, the entire Butler team was there! I have to say I was a little nervous, walking up on the first day. My dad likes to say showing up is the most important part, so I stood a little taller and as I walked through the door, I asked myself, what’s the worst that could happen. And of course, I was greeted with tacos, coffee, and like-minded Austinites- nothing to be scared of. I learned more than I thought I would and had the pleasure of meeting some great development workers in our community. I have already signed up for my next two classes! Big shout out to AFP and the Lilly School of Philanthropy for partnering and bringing such amazing professional development opportunities to our community.

The class was essentially Annual Sustainability 101. We talked about a lot of things (that I am beginning to feel like I understand- win!), like, developing an annual fund, giving trends, gift range charts, budgets and… millennials. Millennials (people born between 1980 and about 2000) were not a focus of the class, but they were mentioned multiple times. Which, brought me back to my pondering about being young and finding your place in the professional workplace. What do millennials, and more specifically, what do I have to offer an organization, that is unique? What about my life experience is different and how do I bring it to the nonprofit table?

According to the population estimates released by the US Census Bureau, millennials are now the largest living generation, surpassing baby boomers (people born between 1946 -1964). And 17% of Austin’s population is made up of millennials. CNBC said the millennial generation is more generous than people give them credit for. In 2014, 84% of millennials made a charitable donation and 70% spent at least an hour volunteering. And on average millennials give an annual gift of $481.

When millennials did come up during my training there seemed to be a lot of misconceptions about them as prospective donors, volunteers, and interns. I understand why, as fundraisers, development teams would focus most of their resources towards the silent (people born before 1946) and baby boomer generations (since together they make up 90% of the annual giving), but those generations are getting older and millennials represent the future of philanthropy. Understanding the generational differences and motivations unique to this group will be important when coming up with successful fundraising plans to cultivate a healthy donor base.

So, maybe the answer to my earlier question about finding your place is simpler than I think. Maybe as a young person, at least a portion of the value we bring to the table is the knowledge and understanding to help organizations engage an entire demographic that seems to currently be overlooked. And here are a couple reasons why an organization would want to do that.

Millennials are motivated to intern and volunteer. The value of a good internship is increasing, almost to a point where it’s necessary to get a job right after college. This means organizations have a whole pool of educated people looking to get involved. That being said treating your interns like they are valuable to your mission and organization is essential. I think it is mostly true that people put in what they get out and if you want to minimize your intern turnover rate and keep long term volunteers, provide them with opportunities for ownership on projects and work. You don’t have to pay your interns (although with the increase in living costs, that rises to the top of what makes people feel valued), but make sure you are offering them other things, such as, college credit, possible future employment, recommendation letters, or relevant work experience for resumes.

Millennials are undoubtedly the founders of social media and their mindset is about connectivity. Millennials have a much greater understanding about technology than generations before them. This is something I think most organizations do not take full advantage of. Social media platforms go in and out of style very quickly and I often hear a lot of misconstructions about what young people are actually using (Facebook isn’t the coolest thing anymore!). The millennial online engagement is immense and invaluable to your organization. By asking millennials to donate their time, you are also asking them to donate their network. Nonprofit Hub says that by having millennials donate their network you are ensuring that other people are exposed to the cause through the leveraging of personal and professional relationships.

Millennials can help keep your organization relevant and fresh. When the silent and boomer generations pass away, will you be ready to engage millennials or will you be scrambling to keep up? To ensure that you are ahead of the curve, hire millennials now. Forbes says millennials may actually be the best generation of workers we’ve ever seen. They are the most diverse generation in US history, they value job fulfillment over monetary reward (score for nonprofits), and millennials are resilient.

I think there are two Butler tips in this blog. First, recognize and own your value within your organization or company. This can be especially hard when you are moving out of student mode (although, we should never completely leave this mindset). Find your strengths and strive to be a leader daily. Show up and ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Second, think about your work place, are you engaging the millennial population? And are you engaging them correctly? If you think you could be doing more, who better to ask for help than a millennial.

If you enjoy the Butler blogs let us know by commenting on, liking, and sharing them.

Until next time.

Katie Linn, Project Coordinator