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The Next Generation of Givers
By John Huynh
No matter where I go, the same question is often asked of me: How do we engage and inspire young people to give? Indeed, it is an important question that should be asked. According to the U.S. Census, 2015 marked the year that the “Millennial” population exceeded that of Baby Boomers. However, there is a tendency among nonprofits to shy away from cultivating and engaging Millennials, perhaps because of a lack of understanding about how this generation thinks and operates. However, the church and fundraising community would do well to learn how to marshal the support of young people.
Be Transparent
With news traveling at the speed of tweets and status updates, there is no shortage of information concerning the latest case of corporate corruption or scandal. Unfortunately, nonprofits are not immune from unethical practices either. For this reason, the Millennial generation is full of skepticism when it comes to donating. Unlike our grandparents who gave without hesitation, their trust must be earned before they decide to commit. To overcome this fundraising hurdle, full transparency is needed. Give them a clear breakdown on where their money is going and how it is being used. Overhead expenses are understandable, but explain the reasoning behind expenditures. When they can see that money is being put to good use, their trust in and commitment to the organization will increase.
Give Them Hands on Opportunities
The 2013 Millennial Impact Report revealed that 73% of Millennials who were surveyed volunteered for a nonprofit in 2012. This shows that Millennials do not want to only support an organization financially; they also have a desire to contribute their time and effort because they want to be emotionally invested in the cause. Organizations should be proactive in creating opportunities for donors to have a hands-on experience. Allow them to get knee-deep in the needs and enterprises of your church or ministry.
Bring Them to the Decision Making Table
Young people like to see that they are represented in decision-making positions. Preachers often exhort their young members to be more involved in church, but the sad reality is that very few churches actually entrust their youth with meaningful leadership roles. The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s distinguished history is founded and shaped by the dedication of young people who were excited about God’s work. We should expect nothing less from our young people today. The Millennial generation is teeming with fresh ideas and they are yearning to give to a great cause. In the nonprofit world, people of interest are often recruited onto boards in order to encourage participation and giving. The same logic works for Millennials. When we empower young people with leadership opportunities, they’ll develop a sense of ownership, and overtime develop a commitment financially when asked.
It Takes Two
We often forget that top companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook were founded by young individuals who were well under 30. Simply put, fresh ideas are what sets Millennials apart and propels them to the next level. However, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t succeed based on their fresh ideas alone. History shows us that they were successful because they each had a mentor guiding their fresh ideas from behind the scenes. When we have fresh ideas from millennials coupled with experience from the previous generation, we can prepare for something amazing to happen! Help their ideas become a reality and they will give a hundred times over.

John Huynh is director of development and university advancement at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California