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Engaging Millennials

Engaging Millennials for Nonprofits

By Stephen Bailey

Engaging Millennials? Be creative!

Millennials are people born between (loosely) 1980 and 2000 (so now they’re between 14 and 33). Also called Generation Y, they’re the children of the baby boomers. If your organization wants to involve them, you may learn from a couple of web sites at Washington University (WashU) in St. Louis.

Kuumba is the principle marking the sixth day of Kwanzaa. The Swahili word means creativity, in the sense of using your available resources, abundant or scarce, to improve yourself and your community. And when it comes to engaging millennials, the largest generation to date (80 million), let’s face it, we could use all the creativity we can muster.

Creativity is exactly what uses to inspire and recruit millennials at WashU. The club was started for the very reasons that millennials have reported not feeling engaged by many for- and not-for profits. The founders felt they weren’t truly able to develop a community due to the one-sided, professional and dry demeanor with which we WashU’s were asked to behave in the classroom. In that setting, we were unable to learn about and develop relationships with our classmates. What we needed was to hear and experience their stories.

Let’s put WashU’s official website and the student generated side by side and cross analyze them with what we do know about millennials:

Millennials, Stephen Bailey

65 percent prefer to learn about nonprofits through their website and 55 percent prefer to learn through forms of social media.

Yes, both are websites. But is directly linked to its videos on YouTube and Vimeo. The website also posts all new videos on Facebook.

47 percent say they prefer to support nonprofits with their time, while only 16 percent prefer to give exclusively through financial support.

Students can support without reaching into their pockets. Students can give by watching the videos, being profiled or attending KuumbaTalks (their version of TEDxTalks).

Millennials prefer learning from peers. provides a way for students and prospective students to learn about you, not through centralized messaging, but directly from the students themselves. This embodies peer-to-peer learning.

Tell character driven stories and make the millennial the hero.

Rather than speaking theoretically about an issue, Kuumba tells the stories of individuals and their experiences with that issues. For instance, you could look up the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts or you can learn about what means to a Sam Fox student. Notice that through’s story, Zach Swanson is made the hero, rather than, WashU, Sam Fox or art.

When volunteering, 48 percent reported that they would like to use their educational background and professional skills and 45 percent wish to help plan events and develop committee or small group strategy. provides students with a spectrum of opportunities to get involved —- from liking a video or nominating someone to be profiled to even joining the club itself. Students can use their skills to help plan events, run the organization, or share their professional and artistic talents by being profiled.

To understand why millennials are financially important to your organizations, check out the Young Entrepreneur’s writeup on Millennials and Money. Who would of thought that “millennial males spend twice as much on apparel per year as males of previous generations.”

You can also fine some great information on engaging millennials from the following studies below:

Stephen Bailey is a 2014 Masters Candidate at the Clinton School of Public Service and Communications and Branding intern at Heifer International. His interests include producing documentary films and creating creative campaigns that address social issues.

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