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    The members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1998. Three of them grew up in my house, so I have a fair sense of what makes . . . . .
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The Nonprofit Blog

Generation Y and Why They Give

The members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1998. Three of them grew up in my house, so I have a fair sense of what makes them tick, what impassions them, and how we might get and hold their attention.

Of course I know I can't judge a generation by my three daughters. However, I feel pretty self-assured about saying that this is a generation that cares—about the environment, about justice for all, about the importance of the arts, about education, about health care and services for all Americans, and about those who cannot help themselves.

Many female Gen Y'ers got their philanthropic start selling Girl Scout cookies. As teens they began to run races for cures and for a variety of causes. Community service was an integral part of their high school curriculum. Peddling, showing up and rolling up their sleeves to help others come naturally to Gen Y.

September 11, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina taught this generation how to reach into their pockets to help finance aid to the victims of disasters.

It's now 2010 and the early Gen Y'ers have entered their 30s. They are educated, trained and actually have some real money in their pockets. Never before have so many young people cared so passionately about so many causes. They are 70 million strong. Their voices are heard loud and clear on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever other media are developed between the time I write this article and it gets published.

All nonprofits are asking the same question: How do we attract, cultivate, solicit and retain this promising and passionate group of young people?

Let's get into their heads:

#1: They are busy. Are we getting our information out quickly? If we can attract Gen Y'ers to our website, do we get to the point immediately? What do we want them to do, give or say? When do we want it? And how can they deliver it to us?

#2: They are social. Members of Generation Y, aka the Net Generation, communicate with their peers en masse. How do we make it possible for these young volunteers and donors to spread the word quickly to their hundreds of Facebook friends? Do we help them relay our call to action in a 140-character tweet? Have we created a one-minute YouTube video that compels them to action and propels them to spread the word?

#3: They are loyal. That is, they're loyal if we make them feel appreciated. Hundreds of charities are vying for the attention of this generation. What is our charity doing, in the way of stewardship, to stand out from the crowd and make Gen Y'ers feel appreciated? Can we show them, in a way they can pass along to others, the impact and effect of their donations, time or advocacy?

If we can help Gen Y'ers help us get our message out, and if we can demonstrate the good work their contributions are doing, we will have gained a whole new generation of loyal supporters.

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