How Millennials Engage With Social Causes
On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Derrick Feldmann, President of Achieve, joins us to chat about millennials and MCON14. You can watch the full episode below:
Steven: All right, hello! Thanks for tuning in for this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. My name is Steven. I’m the VP of Marketing over here at Bloomerang. We’re here live today with Derrick Feldmamnn. He is the President over at Achieve. Hey Derrick, how are you doing?
Derrick: Hey Steven, how are you?
Steven: Good. Thanks for being here. You are the most rock star person we’ve ever had on Bloomerang TV, by the way. I just want you to know that.
Derrick: Wow. So the bar is a little low.
Steven: No, don’t say that. I’m sure everyone who is watching or listening to this is aware of who you are, but just in case, would you let us know what you’re up to, what kind of work you do over at achieve these days?
Derrick: Yeah. I lead Achieve. Achieve is a creative research and campaigns agency. Simply put, we develop and design campaigns. We research how those campaigns are successful with organizations, and then we really help an organization move from really small involvement of a constituent to deeper levels over time. Probably one of the bigger things that you might have heard that we do is called the millennial impact report. I’m the lead researcher on the millennial impact report which is right now a four year study.
We’re extending it over the next three years, but to understand how a millennial, ages 22, 25ish to 32 engages with causes. When we use that word engagement, we’re looking at how they connect from social media to email, how they evolve from volunteering to leadership roles, how they get from micro giving to major giving as well. That’s a little bit about what we do.
Steven: Why should fundraisers care about that age bracket? Why should millennial’s be important to non-profits? I feel like millennial’s sometimes get a little bit of a bad rap, but they’ve got some serious donating power. Isn’t that right?
Derrick: That’s true. There are a couple major reasons that we look at. If you’re an organization though that is completely cash strapped and you need cash right now, this is probably not the demographic that you need to go after in this moment. But really, I look at millennial involvement with causes in one of three major reasons. The first one that we look at is that the millennial, because of a lot of their consumer spending power and how they involve themselves, buy products, services, and goods are marketed to very heavily.
The way that millennial’s are marketed to in the for-profit world also influences how they communicate with in the non-profit world. What that means is that non-profits are going to probably have to change how they communicate with millennial’s because for-profits are doing that too as well.
Why do we care about millennial marketing really in general? There’s one major reason. A lot of the trends in general communication that happen with millennial’s are also being used with all generations. For the first time, I think we’re hearing in board rooms, boomers, the greatest generation, saying, “Hey, I may not know social media, but it’s important and we probably need to be there.” That’s because this millennial audience is really driving a lot of that. You see consumer behavior really, really important in that beat.
I think the second piece that’s really important about why you engage a millennial is we look at that really big consumer spending amount. They spend $300 billion every year on consumer discretionary goods, so iPhones, all of this kind of stuff. In our field, we care more about what people are always talking about which is the transfer of wealth, which I care less about. The reason why is because when that money is passed down to millennial’s, the likelihood of it being really hands free is really, really small.
Because they’re spending so much, and we know that millennial’s based on our research and others have a cause interest in doing social good, transparency, and all of that is that this is an opportunity that millennial’s can give to causes if they’re communicated to effectively and they can bring some of that money over there with them.
I think the third thing that’s really, really important is now we have a generation that is really a bunch of great digital marketers. You’ve done a heck of a job, Steven, with what you guys are doing. We now have this group of people who communicate, share, send, do all of these kinds of things with peers. They’re going on and doing digital marketing on behalf of causes. Why not? Why not use that power and harness it and try to spread good words? That’s why we think millennial’s are important.
Steven: Pretty important.
Steven: So what is that shift that has to happen in terms of communication? How do you communicate to them effectively? You say that for-profits, they’ve kind of figured this out and really put a lot of attention on it. What do non-profits need to do or know to really engage with this group?
Derrick: The good thing that we tend to do is learn from what we’ve seen in the for-profit consumer world because that’s where a lot of this is occurring. There are a couple of things. First and foremost is we’ve studied over the course of the last four years really the rise in visual type messaging. We’ve seen that with not only social network, but also even whether it’s a direct mail piece or anything else. Why is there such a rise in visual components? There’s this disconnect, I think, between what a millennial actually does and what they see and witness in person, right?
For us, if I’m to go out to Target, buy something, go to Best Buy, I can physically touch it, I can see it, I can participate in it, and I’m going to get this need, this good, whatever that is. In a non-profit, you don’t necessarily get that. Somebody else benefits. I help you, you receive this service, and so forth. Because they’re so used to that in the consumer market place, we have to say, “All right, how can we replicate that model and show what’s actually happening to our beneficiaries?” We see the rise in visual platforms to help them experience the work of the cause so that they’re much more, so that it hits really into that passion beat.
The second thing that’s really important, and this is really tough but we have to do it, which is we have to create feedback loops all of the time. If you ever follow some of the best social media platforms and companies, always asking questions, posing different things, trying to get responses. Millennial’s seek a feedback loop with communication. A millennial says they’re working for you and, “How am I doing?” and they’ve only been there for two hours. That’s a feedback mechanism that they’re seeking for.
For us, “It’s if I give, if I volunteer, if I support, what are you going to tell me? What are you going to tell me that you’ve actually used it for or the assets been used?” We have to create feedback loops much faster than we ever have. This whole one year, 12 month annual report, get rid of it. We really need to use much faster feedback mechanisms than before.
The third one is, we have to feed into the fact that they know how to message to their peers. We need to stop really creating this what I would call a B2C relationship, that business to consumer, that I as a non-profit marketing professional from my organization should only be communicating independently with people without realizing, wow, I’ve got this millennial base that has a lot of peers, a lot of friends and everything. Why don’t I really create a B2B relationship in that they then communicate to their friends?
So what I’m going to do is, because I know you’re a digital marketer, you’re a peer, you’ve got friends, I’m going to provide you with resources, I’m going to provide you with messages, I’m going to provide you with visuals – all of the things to allow you to communicate the message rather than me trying to do it for you.
That’s some of the shift that needs to occur.
Steven: It seems like if a non-profit were to make this shift, be more authentic at engaging and be more visual that it’s going to help the millennial relationships for sure, but it’s also going to help their relationships with all the donors regardless of age. Do you think that’s a fair statement to make?
Derrick: Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, this communication change that we’re seeing is also influencing other generations. It comes now into what, I would say, we live in a world of what I call tangible transparency. If I really want to know what the hotel is going to be like at the next conference I’m going to speaking at, I can do that. There are websites that tell me transparently from authentic people what the real experience is. That is something that this generation is driving constantly and that older generations are saying, “Oh wow, that’s pretty interesting. I want that too. I want to know not necessarily where the impact persey is, but I want to know how you do it, what’s going to happen, how this matters to me and you as the cause together, and tangibly tell me the difference life will be like if this happens, if I support or get involved.”
Steven: I’m going to ask you to get your crystal ball out for a minute.
Steven: So millennial’s are 22 to 30, or whatever it is. What about that 13 to 21 year old age bracket. Should non-profits be kind of thinking about those people? I think the IU School of Philanthropy said that 90% of that age group actually gives to charities. What are you seeing in the future for that up and coming generation behind the millennial’s?
Derrick: Generation Z technically right now is what they’re being called. What is probably going to happen, and even we’ve seen this over the course of five years, is that no longer is it that there isn’t technology that exists. The technology is always being developed, all of that. What we’re seeing is that cohorts within the generation are being much more selective on the technologies they participate in. What’s going to make the shift or challenge for causes is going to be, where do we want to reach this certain demographic of this certain generation? How are we going to be in that place and so forth.
What I perceive happening is we’re going to have some niche audiences based upon technology preference going forward. We’re also going to see not just a rise in more visual type content that we’re seeing this generation be a part of, but also much more leverage peer stuff than ever before. Right now we’re doing a lot of peer fundraising and influence in small groups. We’ll still see that but it’s going to be much more guarded and safeguarded. The network by the generation Z is not necessarily going to be, “Well, I’m on Facebook.”
Not everybody is going to be there. It’s, “I’m in this environment, maybe in a larger network of people who are pretty close. I’m not going to like your end cause unless I really, really care about you. Therefore, you’re going to have to work extra hard to try and connect with me.” I think we’re going to see a little more closed networks with this next generation. We’re started to see other things like Snap and some other technologies that exist.
Steven: We’re about out of time but I want to give you a chance to talk about MCON. You’ve got this awesome event coming up. It’s become a juggernaut in the non-profit sector and really beyond. You’ve got some incredible speakers lined up. Tell folks a little bit about MCON coming up here in a couple of months.
Derrick: It’s a great event. This is the fourth year for the event. Like some other things we’ve done here, we kind of did it backwards. We started out as a virtual conference and then decided, “Well, we’re bringing people together. How come we’re not doing it in person?” Then it brought into the in person, or most people start a conference and then say, “How do we go online with it?” So definitely backwards.
What MCON is is a two day event where we talk about different ways for what I would say company’s end causes to learn about the next generation of activists, consumers, and do-gooders all in there. We cover things like culture, relationships, resources, and movements. We’ve got fantastic speakers from a NASCAR driver to individuals from Forbes, PBS, Working Hard, to the Starter League, and now there is including Rosario Dawson headlining, Dale Partridge of Sevenly.
Jean Case with the Case Foundation will be speaking. Justyn Howard with Sprout Social, the CEO, talking about some of the social media components that are occurring too. So, a fantastic two day event. There will be some really fun things if you can attend it in person including a social for good event with Chobani and the Case Foundation, the Chronicle Philanthropy event as well. Online, anybody can join for free and watch it. We’ll also be maybe debuting some research pieces there. I’m going to save that for a little bit later.
Steven: Oh, tease.
Steven: I love it. I love it that if a fundraiser goes to this event, they’re going to get exposed to a lot of different philosophies and industries that maybe they hadn’t thought of before that could really help them. That’s one thing I really like about the speakers you’ve got lined up. It’s not just the usual non-profit speakers but it’s going to be across the board which is really great.
Derrick: Yeah. We curate all the speakers ourselves and with a committee of other people. Our goal is honestly, if they’ve been heard somewhere else we try not to have them unless they’re new, relevant, or interesting content that will be there. With our focus, it’s interesting. Somebody said last year, “One minute I’m just hanging out and the next minute there’s the head of Twitter and Social for Good and Sophia Bush is hanging out over there.” It’s a great event for people to come together from very different aspects and backgrounds to learn what’s happening in next generation work. It’s good.
Steven: Wow. We’ll link to all that in the blog post.
Derrick: You’re an insider too, as well.
Steven: I’m an insider, yeah. I’m going to be there. If you’re there, look for me, look for Derrick, say hi to us. You’ve got to buy a ticket now because they’re going to sell out, so check that out.
Derrick: There are only 300 tickets in person. We limit the amount of people in person. If you don’t make it in person, if the tickets sell out, don’t worry, you can watch online, at home, tablet, device, mobile, whatever you want to do.
Steven: Cool. We’ll link to all that stuff. Derrick, this is awesome having you. Thank you for hanging out with us for a little while.
Derrick: It’s a pleasure. Thanks so much, and I’m looking forward to the next time.
Steven: All right everyone, thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. We will catch you next week. We’ll talk to you then.