Attracting young professionals to your organization, Part 1: Why you need Millennials.

Nonprofit Management and Leadership January 13, 2015 By Ed Lord

Photo of Young Professionals for DonorDrive Article

This is the first of Ed’s four-part series that takes a look at ways your organization can attract young professionals, both as volunteers and donors.

If you don’t have a young professionals group at your organization or you’ve had one that failed in the past, it’s important that you get one going. Today’s Millennial generation is a wealth of resources that your organization needs to be tapped into. Differing from almost every other generation, Millennials have a strong desire to find meaning in their lives and do not always seek it in their employment. For your organization that translates into commitment, time and money that they can devote to your cause.


Why it’s important to attract them at this time in their life.

Millennials are good volunteers since they usually don’t have the family obligations that older volunteers have. Nonprofits often make the mistake of assuming young professionals don’t have money to donate. For the most part Millennials don’t have the budget constraints that more established volunteers have. When you’re just starting out in your career, you don’t have a mortgage to pay or a family to support and you tend to spend a larger percent of your budget on entertainment.


Fat wallets, fatter networks.

Millennials can have big wallets, but they have even bigger networks. So not only are they willing to give, but they’re willing to introduce everyone they know to your cause. Even though they may be just starting to establish themselves in the work world, the average Millennial has a network of 250, often more than your older, more-established volunteers have. So young professionals are a good source of fundraising through their networks when you give them the freedom to create their own experiences.


Give them the opportunity to find their purpose.

One thing Millennials are looking for that the past few generations skipped (or got to later in life) is a sense of purpose beyond their paycheck. And they’re looking for it outside of the workplace rather than in. This is a wonderful opportunity for your organization. Just for the general long-term health of your nonprofit, you have to bring in new blood. You have to engage the leaders of tomorrow because they’ll be the board members that will run your organization in the future. The earlier you get them, the more devoted they’ll be to your organization. And it’s to your competitive advantage to get to them early because if you don’t—other organizations will. 


Millennials aren’t self obsessed.

Gen Y has gotten an undeserved bad rap about not caring. A recent survey from Bentley University says that 84% of Millennials feel that making a positive difference in the world is more important than a bigger paycheck. Working with an organization like yours can be exactly the outlet they’re looking for.

The multi-cause mentality.

It’s common that your older volunteers are solely dedicated to your cause. Young professionals, on the other hand, may believe in many causes. Much like their grandparents who were the idealists of the ’60s, Millennials believe they can save the world. While they’re seeking purpose, they may be casually aligned with many causes, but not seriously aligned with any. The goal is to make your cause the one they start to seriously identify with.


Find the influencers.

There will typically be a small group of young professionals that are committed to your cause for the same reason older volunteers are. Maybe they have a personal connection with the illness you’re curing. Whatever the reason, these people are the nuclei that attract those who support multiple causes to your organization. Not all of these influencers are leadership material, but you need to make sure you give all influencers the freedom to attract, since that’s their biggest value to your organization. They help those that entertain multiple causes find their sense of purpose in your cause.

Whether focused on your cause or on multiple causes, you’ll be surprised at just how generous Millennials are and how much time they devote to your organization through a young professionals group. You’ll notice a higher percentage of young professionals who dive in feet first. Your job is to give them a great place to land within your organization.



Ed Lord

Vice President of Strategic Services at DonorDrive  

Ed comes to DonorDrive from a 25-year career in fundraising for the American Cancer Society that helped generate over one billion dollars for the organization. His last role at ACS was Senior Vice President of Business Development for the South Atlantic Division. He was instrumental in the development of Relay For Life and a pioneer in peer-to-peer fundraising.

This series is also available as an eBook. You can download it below.