New Order to The Killers

Millennials. Non-profit organizations and fundraising agencies have all been trying to figure out the new age old question of “how do we get this group involved, past just one action into full engagement?” Are millennials, myself included, motivated by a brand, a cause, a trendy action, or something they noticed that really hit home during the last season of How I Met Your Mother?  How can you know?  As non-profits begin to take a bigger piece of the pie in the digital space, it’s important not to forget a key principle that props up the foundation of all good fundraising: quantifiable data metrics replace instinct with fact. It holds true for these confusing millennials, too.

We’re in the midst of the big data era – segmented audiences (especially with millennials) are going to get easier to track.  The numbers (or quantitative data) are ample. But this group is also going to be pulled apart and become too spread out – making it harder for your organization to hone in on the one thing that attracts them to a cause, an organization’s mission. 

This, in my opinion, is where qualitative statistics make a resurgence.  We can identify possibly wildly-divergent motivators and combine them to create a new synergy.  What was that cool keyboard everyone used back in the 80’s – the synth? Yeah – let’s bring that back and incorporate it with punk rock 90’s guitars. Now we have a blended killer sound that is being pushed to your millennials via SiriusXM today.  We can do that with motivators and community building.

I know it is a bit cliché to use the Obama for America campaign as a point of reference, but with the millennial audience, they ruled—especially in 2012 when youth voters were expected to decline because Obama was no longer “new and fresh”.

How’d they do it? Their ability to attract youth voters didn’t just rely on the quantitative, Nate Silver model to bring home a victory.  No, they blended the quantitative with the qualitative and added focus groups and ground level research. Through a long series of focus groups, backed by data-driven questions, the Campaign found the issues that were on the top of each and every millennial’s mind.  And then synthesized their findings to be able to cull the laundry list of issues to a few key topics.

Then they took the full spectrum of research to power sound creative pushes through social media and college campus and other youth based grass roots outreach, making individual one-to-one connections using the key topics that motivated millennials.

In the end, their success was based on solid research that led them to finding the key messages to motivate younger voters—and then relying on the power of singular connections to build community and momentum.

And here is where we in the nonprofit community can really learn.  It’s about blending research, messaging and community to make change. If you take that moment, your challenge of grabbing millennials may just be that much easier.