Great Research for Nonprofits: Millennial Impact Report – Involve the 20-35 Year Olds

Sections of this topic

    The third annual Millennial Impact Report has just been issued and it is full of important data. The report is issued by Achieve and Johnson Grossnickle Associate and funded by the Case Foundation. The data used to develop the report is quite extensive and drawn from over 6500 surveys completed and focus groups of “Millennial Professionals” aged 20 – 35. 95% of the participants were college graduates. The goal of the study is to develop a better understanding of successful strategies for nonprofits to engage millennials. Because it included both surveys and focus groups in Indianapolis, Seattle, and Washington D.C it has both breadth and depth. Each section features “Takeaways” and I am including those comments and tips in this article. The report is grouped into three categories –

    • Connect
    • Involve
    • Give

    Thanks to The Millennial Impact for sharing these great infographics.

    This article covers the Involve aspect of the report. The companion article at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant, Great Research for Nonprofits: Millennial Impact Report – Part 1 – Connect discusses the “Connect” aspect of the report. Check back for an article that will be published in both blogs on the “Give” results.

    I like to write about research reports, butI always add my own commentary as I go along. So I warn you in advance – it isn’t just an article summarizing the report. You have to suffer through my remarks too. Sorry. There is a lot of meat in this study and if you are interested in extending your reach with Millennials you will find a lot of useful information here.

    You can download the whole report here.

    I have been writing about engaging Millennialsfor a long time. Too often, nonprofits consider this group to be of “low donor value” but they have a lot to offer and shouldn’t be written off. I have a 27 year old son and so I have a personal sample of one to add to the study. My assessment – This study is dead-on correct. And…. I think a lot of this applies to older folks too – not just Millennials. I bet you will identify with much of what is in the report. However, objective data always boosts my confidence level.

    Here are some key overall findings and assessments from the report:

    Millennials want to be taken seriously as donors, volunteers, and leaders for causes they care about. Young donors are fully immersed in technology, but they are also invested in timeless values. They want to give and to serve. They want involvements that engage their minds as well as their hands. Most important they are interested in building authentic, personal relationships with nonprofits. Millennialshave high expectations o for themselves and the nonprofits they support. My note: Corporate employers are learning the parallel or is same things and adapting to deal with their younger employees.

    Study Findings on “Involving”

    The 20-35 age span is a time of major transition. There is a lot of change in lifestyle, interests, available time and more. But as they transition from college to a career and eventually a family, the ways in which they are willing to be involved will vary. It is important for nonprofits to create a continuum of volunteer engagement from micro-volunteer projects that take little time, one-time volunteer projects, opportunities to volunteer with friends or family, and leadership roles that utilize their professional skills. Millennialsare interested in leadership roles in nonprofits, even if they can’t commit a lot financially right now.


    63% of surveyed Millennials reported they volunteered for nonprofits in 2011. By a margin of more than two-to-one, Millennials who volunteer for nonprofits are more likely to make donations. So how do they find out about volunteer opportunities? Here’s how they answered this question:


    • Friends and Family 81%
    • Email 72%
    • Website 67%
    • Facebook 55%

    My note – This makes it sound easier than it really is. It may be easy to contact a Millennial via these channels but you better have a clear, concise description which sounds like the work will have impact and you have your act together.


    “I want to know exactly what I will be doing as a volunteer. Organizations need to be clear about what the organization is about and how the volun­teer job ties into it.”

    Tips to increase volunteer involvement:

    • Provide one-time and long-term options
    • Explain how the volunteer services benefit the organization
    • Utilize Millennials’ professional skills
    • Be clear about time commitment and duties
    • Provide group volunteer opportunities for families and friends


    • Use my professional skills 48%
    • Interaction with services 47%
    • Event Planning 45%
    • Work with friends/Family 40%
    • Board Committee 40%
    • I’m not picky 20%

    The best way to lose Millennial volunteers? According to focus group feedback, a bad experience or a situation in which volunteers’ time was used badly will turn Millennials off from future volun­teering. Be clear in your expectations and the time needed of volunteers before hand.

    Board, Committee Positions and Professional Skills

    The focus group feedback was clear – “Don’t stick us at the kiddie table” and don’t think that social media is my only skill. Participants said that they do not want to be the token “youth representatives” on a board. They want to engage in authentic leadership, with real tangible impact on the organization. When asked if they were in a leadership position either on a board, young professional group or committee or interested in joining one, 77% said they were either in a position or interested in joining.

    My note – Millennials are an untapped resource of skills, energy and willingness to step up. Just as young professionals who are working in nonprofits are anxious to have more responsibility and independence to do things their way, young professionals are anxious to be full partners in leadership. This can be a win-win for the Millennial and the organization. Their work can provide them with valuable experience and networking opportunities and your organization can benefit from their hard work and skills. This can truly forge long term relationships.

    I saw this with my son who was appointed to the search committee for a new pastor for our church. I think people thought it was nice to have a young representative. They soon found out that he was very skilled and considered himself a full partner with the older members of the group. Since then he has been elected to the church Board and chairs the property committee. People talk to him as a church leader – not as someone who represents young people. He has established himself as a respected leader. He is fully engaged and confident in his own skills. He has also been recruited to be a member of a nonprofit board but he has concerns about time commitments and his ability to give what he thinks a Board member should. Yes, I am a very proud mother talking, but I think there are lots of Millennials that can bring so much to nonprofits and are overlooked as prospects for leadership positions.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.