There’s a lot out there about Gen Z and it’s all overwhelming. That their communication, donation, and content consumption patterns are totally different from previous generations, and how Gen Z, Millennials, and younger generations have eclipsed baby boomers and now make up more than half the US population.
The thing is, connecting doesn’t strictly mean speaking the same language—it’s about sharing the same values. You’ve already got wanting to better the world in common with Gen Z and Millennials, so reaching them doesn’t necessarily mean a huge investment or 180-degree pivot. But it does involve shifting your approach (and, in some cases, mindset) on how best to involve the next generation of donor, volunteer, and activist partners.
6 Steps Your Organization Can Take to Engage Gen Z
“There’s always value in proximity. There are schools and youth clubs around you that you can approach. You’ll find young people are sensitive to the issues you’re trying to address. As long as you let them drive. For example, you might ask, ‘Would you like to do something about the fact that people in your community can’t afford a meal every day?” Then let them choose how they’re going to address the situation. They may come up with a TikTok challenge. Or they may come up with something with some live events or fundraisers.“
If you’re worried that these young people are more interested in communicating through their devices, think again. States Stanford’s Roberta Katz.
“Our biggest surprise came in response to this interview question: “What type of communication do you like best?” We expected the interviewees to respond with their favorite type of digital communication – e.g., text, email, chat group, DM, FaceTime, Skype, etc. – but instead nearly every single person said their favorite form of communication was “in person.”
Let Gen Z take the wheel.
“As activists they already see themselves as part of the decision-making process. Businesses and charities should expect that and make space for their voice and contributions. Businesses and charities should also recognise that knowledge does not just include education but also experience. We are experts in being young. Organisations need to give Gen Z the tools to become an equal discussion partner – which is true of any minority group as well.”
This collaboration could be anything (and everything), including youth-led advisory boards, volunteer programs, and one-off projects. For more ideas on how to involve young people in your organization, review this article by Sami Adler on Global Giving. Or, you can just hire them.
Help them relate to your cause.
“If you’re a cancer research foundation or a hospital network, you don’t need to pivot to working on antiracism or climate action. But if you dive deep, I bet you can find a shared value that fulfills young people’s desire for a better world. Maybe that message is ‘Everyone has the right to good health care.”
Inform them about your cause and what you are doing to create positive change. In addition to online outreach, a fantastic way to do this is to invite them to your events, actions, or open days. Remember, these are young people who are activists and prefer in-person communication—they will want to know how they can help!
Meet them where they are.
Another approach is to keep an eye out for local events, festivals or competitions attracting Gen Zers and ask the organizers how you can get involved to inform, educate, and engage.
Offer giving as a regular practice.
As far as monetary contributions, large annual or quarterly donations are not going to appeal to this group. Instead, introduce a subscription model. Says Ray Gary in his article on NonProfit Pro
“As Millennials and Gen Zers begin to take center stage in philanthropy, I see a trend toward everyday giving. Everyday giving refers to donating smaller, more regular donations to causes versus the one-time-a-year, larger donation. These next-gen philanthropists are focused on creating change in the causes they care most about that have a real-time impact.”
“While in previous generations, it may have been common to see a large portfolio of nonprofits supported by one individual, it appears that younger donors want to avidly support a smaller number of causes with greater effort. As a result, less transactional behavior is exhibited, which can be defined as the interaction between the donor and the nonprofit being strictly monetary based. Instead, younger donors expect to develop long-term relationships with the nonprofits they support. This results in three specific shifts to be aware of: younger donors perform more initial research before donating, they expect to feel part of a community when engaging with a nonprofit, and they increasingly seek volunteer opportunities.…For nonprofits, this carries two recommendations: organizations need to have a tightly controlled and consistent brand and they need to place priority on displaying their impact through a multi-channel approach.”