Millennial Activism: Tapping Into a Network of Millennial Donors

by Emily Logan of Care2

Georgetown_MillennialsIMAGEThere seem to be an endless supply of news articles declaring millennials the “Me, me, me” generation, taking the common epithet associated with Baby Boomers and insisting millennials are more entitled, more selfish, more narcissistic and less mature than any previous generation.

But a look at the facts paints a much different story. As millennials (generally considered to be people born in the 1980s and ‘90s—a group I fit into the early part of) come of age, enter the workforce and find themselves with money to spare, they could become a big financial boon to nonprofits. Here are a few things you should know about your current—and future—donors:

They care…really!

Millennials tend to place less value on the acquisition of things, including the traditional settling down purchases of cars and houses, and more on the acquisition of experiences. When millennials do buy things, they care more about where they came from and what the companies that produce them are like, inspiring one of my favorite headlines from 2014: “Corporate social responsibility is millennials new religion.

This interest in social good extends to the workplace. Millennials are more interested in pursuing meaningful work that improves society than making droves of money. Take, for instance, the growing cadre of social entrepreneurs. Sure, the inability to get a cab in San Francisco is not one of the great social ills of our time, but Uber’s genesis was to fix a community problem. Other innovative companies, from small solar-powered generators that help backpackers charge their iPhones and off-grid communities in rural Africa get electricity to a website that tracks abandoned properties in Detroit, are focused on helping people and communities in need.

What does this all mean for a nonprofit? Millennials are exactly the group you want to connect with. People who are socially conscious and altruistic are primed to give to an organization that works on issues they care about. In many ways, from their purchase decisions to their career paths, millennials are walking the walk on their beliefs. In fact, according to a Case Foundation study on millennial impact, 87 percent made a donation to a nonprofit in 2013. Among older millennials (those over 30 who, being further along in their careers, are more likely to have disposable income), a whopping 91 percent donated.

They’re hyper-networked.

Millennials aren’t just taking quizzes and watching cat videos online. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, they’re using social networks for political engagement too. Sixty percent of American adults have participated in civic dialogue on social media, from such low-level engagement as following a political figure or liking a post about political and social issues to advocating for a cause. Among all younger millennials (age 18-24), two-thirds used social media for political engagement.

Not only are millennials using social media more often around social and political causes, but engaging them has a massive multiplying factor. In 2014, the average 18-24 year-old Facebook user had 649 friends. Those 25-43 (which, admittedly, includes some Gen-Xer’s) had 360. Compare those numbers to Baby Boomers, who have an average of fewer than 130 friends.  This means that for every millennial you engage on social media, you reach exponentially more people through their spiraling networks.

The Case Foundation found that millennials are influenced by the decisions of their peers, meaning if you get one millennial to share your work, that vouching makes it more likely that others will engage, too. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last summer? Tapping into the power of social media networks, the ALS Foundation raised $115 million. Not all fundraising campaigns will reach that viral status, but the potential is too huge to ignore.

They do everything online—even give.

It’s not news that many physical services and systems are moving online, and donor engagement is no exception. But this is even more true among younger people. NTEN Benchmarks found that younger people are not only engaging with nonprofits online more than older generations, they’re actually connecting through digital means more often than they’re receiving phone calls from nonprofits and, for some online modes, as often as they’re receiving paper mail. While most donors use an organization’s website to learn more about them, millennials actually turn to Twitter, text and mobile more often.

Blackbaud has found that online giving across all generations is on the rise. But among millennials (or Gen Y as they call them), nearly half give online and more than 60 percent would give via mobile if they had the option. Among older generations, fewer than half would consider a mobile donation.

This all makes a compelling argument for nonprofits to invest in a good online giving system and to beef up outreach to donors through email, social media and other online systems. Sweetening the deal, online outreach is cheaper than a direct mail campaign. I wouldn’t say goodbye to stamps and envelope-stuffing yet, but online engagement provides a low-cost way to continually touch donors and refine the best ways to engage them financially (and otherwise) with your organization.

They’re growing.

Just last month, millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation represented in the U.S. workforce. While we’ll still likely be the butt of more generational “kids these days” laments for awhile, the trends we’re seeing in how this generation views and engages with the world will only magnify in the coming years. The more nonprofits can do now to engage millennial donors online, the more likely they are to catch the wave of change, rather than get left behind.

Emily Logan is Director of Acquisition and Retention at Care2, where her team works with member activists to spread the word about their petitions on ThePetitionSite, builds petition campaigns into full-scale organizing efforts, and helps keep current Care2 members happy and engaged. In her time at Care2 she has also worked extensively with hundreds of nonprofit organizations to help recruit activists and donors and build out their online strategies. Emily has a B.S. in journalism and a B.A. in music from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and currently lives in rainy Portland, Oregon with her cat, Ostrich.

Practitioner Profile: Liselle Yorke, Group Lead, Marketing, Grameen Foundation

Liselle_Yorke-high-res_headshotLiselle Yorke has more than 15 years experience in strategic communications, media outreach, and special events. She is currently the group lead for marketing at Grameen Foundation and also led media relations at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Throughout her career, she has developed and executed communication strategies for nonprofit organizations in the international development and domestic policy arenas, with particular focus on poverty alleviation, health care, economic development and political participation. She has also consulted with and provided pro bono communications support to various organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the University of the West Indies Alumni Association. She earned her master’s degree in communications at Howard University and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of the West Indies.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Describe your career path and your current position.

Liselle Yorke: I’m currently the senior marketing lead at Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit that focuses on global poverty. I’ve been here for 10 years. My journey here was interesting. I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago and came to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in communications at Howard University. Being from the Caribbean, my first thought was to pursue a career in travel and tourism PR. I had already done some television work at home (behind and in front of the camera), so it seemed like a natural fit. But a two-week internship with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a DC think tank, changed that. I found my inner nerd and was keen to learn more about the policy issues facing communities of color. It was a great place to cut my teeth in media relations and I met lots of interesting people along the way. After working there for seven years, I wanted to be part of an organization that was more action-oriented. Just by chance, I learned of the opening at Grameen Foundation – and I still enjoy it today.

CSIC: What is your best piece of career advice?

LY: Soak up all the experience you can. During my time at the Joint Center, I did everything from managing events to standing over the fax machine (imagine that!) sending invitations and receiving RSVPs. Here at Grameen Foundation, I learned about social media management and managing the back-end of a Drupal-based website by watching others and on-the-job learning. These types of experiences make you resilient and relevant and will carry you throughout your career.

CSIC: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

LY: Being part of a small team can bring out the best in you. Two years ago, our two-man team was tasked with a branding re-launch, a website launch and putting out an annual report (while still doing our day-to-day duties). It was a tall order but we did it. Are there things we could have done better? Absolutely. But it was a great test of my capabilities.

CSIC: What can someone be doing now to ensure they secure a position similar to yours?

Hone your writing skills and seek out communications-related opportunities through volunteering.

CSIC: What skills are necessary to work in your field?

LY: Good writing (I cannot stress this enough) and analytical skills that will enable you to measure the effectiveness of your communications strategies.

CSIC: What is your go to source to learn about trends in your field?

LY: PCDC listserv (Progressive Communicators of DC), Bulldog PR Reporter, PR Strategist and K.D. Paine.

CSIC: We always love to ask, is your organization hiring?

LY: We’re not hiring right now. We have a pretty small marketing and communications team. Most of our hiring is on the program side, where we’re always looking for people with experience in social enterprise and mobile technology.

CSIC: Thank you, Liselle, for this excellent insight!

Storytelling in America Using an International Lens: 5 Takeaways from Panel Discussion on International Communications Practices at Edelman


sdlby Sara Dal Lago

In an overcrowded marketplace, it can be hard for organizations to tell their story, or, rather, to pique the public interest and make sure to get their message through.

A survey conducted in 2013 by the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University, “Stories Worth Telling,” shows how storytelling will continue playing a leading role in the communication landscape, especially in the nonprofit sector, in the next few years. What is more, the study also reveals that bloggers have praised storytelling as the #1 Business Skill of the Next Five Years.

When it comes to building awareness and communicating stories in the United States and abroad, it becomes obviously more complicated. In such cases, organizations encounter further obstacles when trying to move people to action, like connecting with populations that are more difficult to reach, and overcoming cultural barriers.

After attending a panel discussion at Edelman entitled “Storytelling in America Using an International Lens,” hosted by Washington Women in Public Relations, I gained significant insights into the practice of international storytelling both for nonprofits and corporations.

Here are five takeaways:

  1. Focus on the messenger. As expressed by Aaron Sherinian, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at the United Nations Foundation, “Tell the story first, and give credits in the end.”
  2. Don’t talk big numbers, but focus rather on a single story. Talking about hundreds of thousands of people in real need for food and water in Africa can be meaningful, but narrating the struggles in the life of a mother in Central Africa is even more significant. Numbers cannot always evoke feelings, but personal and direct stories resonate with audiences everywhere (Mame Annan-Brown, Chief Communications Officer at Results for Development Institute).
  3. Be aware of cultural norms, but don’t overdo it. As Mame and Aaron pointed out, learn how to approach the counterpart by learning how the counterpart wants to be approached. Ask, ask, and ask. Find the middle ground, and don’t try too hard, or you will look and sound made-up.
  4. Be authentic. When looking for partners, authenticity plays an essential role. Your partners’ motivation must align with your cause for your message to be perceived positively by the audience. And be sincere as well. As Paige Alexander, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East at USAID, pointed out, whether or not you are acting in a multicultural environment, honesty is extremely important.
  5. Don’t tell the perfect story, and learn from your mistakes. Carrie Rich, CEO and Founder at The Global Good Fund, proved how highlighting your own mistakes and sharing struggles to your contributors could sometimes pay off. It goes all back to point 4, after all. And finally, as suggested by Aaron, let storytelling be a little rough, without embroidering your story, leaving questions unanswered and, thus, room for curiosity and further discussion. 


Nonprofit Social Responsibility

by Karin Bloomquist

social-impactIn the nonprofit sector, social responsibility takes many forms. Solid research is rare because most articles focus on the benefits to corporations; however, there are many positive outcomes that come from nonprofit CSR such as increased identification, more favorable perceptions among key publics, increased volunteerism and positive word of mouth as well as the power to influence political agendas. The accountability that social responsibility initiatives offer to corporations can also be applied to nonprofit organizations. Transparency in social impact reporting, governance, ethics and communication are key to making nonprofit organizations successful.

A lot of practices are already in use in nonprofit organizations. Recycling and adopting environmentally friendly practices, such as printing on two-sides of office paper and reducing power consumption, were cited as practices used by nearly two-thirds of nonprofits; however, a lot of nonprofits tend to avoid the phrase ‘corporate social responsibility’ because it is believed to be associated with corporate terminology and suggests a stigma that is associated with running things like a business. Most nonprofits will only use the phrase internally or when they are working on corporate partnerships.

The nonprofit sector also faces many ethical issues. These include areas such as compensation; conflicts of interest; publications and solicitation; financial integrity; investment policies; and accountability and strategic management. This is why social impact reporting is essential to the operations of nonprofit organizations—it builds credibility and trust as well as encourages accountability and transparency in conduct. A recent survey of nonprofits found that only about one third of employees believed that their workplace had a well-implemented ethics and compliance program. To address these issues, nonprofit organizations need better institutional oversight, greater public education, and more transparent and inclusive performance measures. Program effective and ways to measure the organization’s social impact should a top priority for the sector.

SocialImpact_Graphic1Communicating effectiveness through social impact reporting can strengthen and support a mission statement. According to TriplePundit, an online publication on social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, green jobs, and the triple bottom line is sustainable business; there are four reasons why NGOs and nonprofits should be reporting sustainability and impact:

  1. NGOs and nonprofit organizations have a footprint and are ethically obligated to reduce their footprint as much as possible
  2. NGOs and nonprofit organizations cannot demand from corporations what they are not willing to do themselves (e.g. transparency, accountability, full disclosure on operations)
  3. NGOs and nonprofit organizations can benefit from increased cost savings as a result of reporting metrics from social impact and sustainability efforts
  4. NGOs and nonprofit organizations can attract more prestigious talent and donors to their organization and allow investors to see them as reputable and credible

As nonprofits get more engaged with social impact reporting, they will have an annual, structured process for stepping back and assessing intentions, outcomes, vision and the practical results of social programs. Organizations who partake will be able to have a competitive advantage over other nonprofits in the market that do not; therefore, this is an area of interest that all nonprofit organizations should be paying attention to, if they are not doing so already.

Tips from Political Campaigns for the Social Impact Communicator

by Corey Goldstone


Photo courtesy of



Through careful observation, campaigns teach lessons each election cycle that can be invaluable to organizations that have a mission to engage and motivate people to action for the public good.


Before the internet redefined the way that political leaders connect with the public, Ronald Reagan was known by adoring supporters as “The Great Communicator” for his ability to captivate listeners in his televised speeches.

In 2015, politicians and candidates know that if they were to rely exclusively on cable television to get their message across, they would be missing the opportunity to engage with key publics on the many digital channels available today; a fatal mistake. While the art of public speaking is not lost on successful politicians of the digital era, people have come to expect regular updates from their public officials on their own time, on their chosen digital channel, in the palm of their hand.

Political campaigns since 2008 have blazed the digital trail, using social media to effectively target and identify the supporters of a cause and motivate them to act. What can communicators at social impact organizations learn from the innovations initiated by political campaigns?

1. If organizations are not available and current on all forms of social media, they are missing a golden opportunity.

On May 21, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced on Facebook, “Hillary’s on LinkedIn! (You may have heard – she’s looking for a new job.)” This is a successful post for a number of reasons. First, it draws attention to the fact that other presidential candidates do not have updated LinkedIn profiles. Under the “People Also Viewed” column on Clinton’s LinkedIn profile, you can see Marco Rubio, Candidate for U.S. Senate (with a picture that makes him look like a college freshman) and a mugshot of Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator for Texas. From viewing these profiles, you can’t tell that they are seeking a career change and have their sights set on a new job: President of the United States of America.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

For all job seekers and organizations alike, it is critical to communicate immediate future goals on LinkedIn, and visitors shouldn’t have to work hard to find it. This communications lapse is a direct reflection on the candidate. Also, light humor online can be the best medicine for the people who are tired of dubious promises that they hear from politicians on the campaign stump.

Utilizing multiple platforms in one post is an effective way to grow followership and connect users with your organization, decreasing the ‘bounce rate,’ of followers who leave your organizations’ social channels because they have become bored of your content. On Facebook, Rubio’s campaign links back to with a message encouraging followers to enter for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas to attend Rubio’s birthday, hosted by a popular television star. This leads me to my next point…

2. Move followers up the ladder of engagement by engaging them early and often, having a clear ‘ask’ and providing them with unique, shareable content.

Maybe your organization wants to recruit 1,500 people to attend a rally that will raise awareness about a cause near and dear to your heart. Perhaps you are leading the effort to get 1,500 signatures for a petition drive. Or maybe the ultimate goal is to raise $1,500. To motivate people to sacrifice valuable time and money for your cause by opening their checkbooks or attending an in-person event, you often have to start small and work your way up. They want to feel like they are a part of a movement, so the more likeminded people that join them in an online community on the journey up the proverbial ladder, the better.

Even if the requested action is as simple as ‘click here,’ or ‘please like this post’, your goal is always to move a supporter up the ladder of engagement with ‘an ask’ on social media. With an image of his campaign logo, Mike Huckabee’s campaign tweeted “Do you support the #FairTax? Share your support by signing my FairTax petition here” (link.) The petition page also includes a favicon of Huckabee’s campaign icon on the webpage (an image of stars on top of a base of red white and blue to illustrate his slogan: Hope to Higher Ground.) This consistency of imagery is essential to building his brand for a new group of voters who were unaware of his 2008 bid for president.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Besides building support for a cause, petitions are valuable because they bring you to landing pages that collect valuable analytic data. In order of importance, campaigns hope to accumulate as many email addresses, zip codes and full names as possible. This helps their organization pinpoint an axis of influence by choosing locations where high concentrations of supporters are. They then pick these strategic locations for grassroots events and fundraisers. On Huckabee’s petition page, including ‘State’ as one of the boxes is unnecessary. He already includes zip code, which can tell his operatives all they need to know. Including redundant information makes it easier for visitors to ignore the page and therefore less likely to input their credit card information when that becomes the inevitable ‘ask’ in the months to come.

Once they have done these things, it’s on to ‘please share this post if you agree,’ which multiplies the number of people that view the post and shows a new list of Facebook friends an easy way to get involved. To capture attention, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. Posts with images always perform better. Also, followers tend to become accustomed to a regular schedule of posts. Especially with Facebook, certain times of the day work best: between 10am-12pm, 3-4pm, and 7-9pm. Avoid Tweeting during rush hour unless there is breaking news that can’t wait.

3. Give individual shareholders an opportunity to participate in an organization’s social media channels (even if it’s for only one day).

On May 21, Mary Jo Brown – a mom, designer, and small-business owner – took over the @HillaryClinton Twitter account to share a day in her life. This kills two birds with one stone. It helps Hillary for America by positioning the campaign as people-centric, as opposed to the often-criticized Hillary-centric 2008 campaign. Also, for previously anonymous business owner Mary Jo Brown, a day holding the reigns of Clinton’s Twitter account will help her to amplify the message of her small Portsmouth, NH.- company because they now have new followers who can stay updated on the services that she provides. When a local organization engages with the social media of a national organization, it can be very empowering for employees and pay dividends; making it easier to impact the community or improve its bottom line, depending on the mission of the organization. Imagery should tell a strategic story and should be tagged appropriately in order to increase the chances that it will be included on the first page of a Google search.


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