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News & Press: Member Insights

Breaking Through Millennial Cynicism

Wednesday, November 4, 2015   (0 Comments)

By Carlos Restrepo, Senior Director of Account Services, Abila

Millennials don’t trust you.

Why should they? They’ve grown up in a world in which traditional institutions and precepts have proved untrustworthy.

According to Pew Research, in fact, just 19 percent of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31 percent of Gen Xers and 40 percent of Boomers.

However, because our global economy relies heavily on trust (online credit card transactions, signed contracts, Ts&Cs), and because these 80 million 18- to 34-year-olds will have an expected $7 trillion in liquid assets over the next five years, the future fiscal health of your nonprofit or association hinges on being considered trustworthy by Millennials.

So, how do you earn the confidence of a largely cynical generation? You’ve heard of people being born with silver spoons in their mouths, right? Well, Millennials were born with silver smartphones in their hands. They’re digital natives. Consequently, one of the best avenues for trust building is technology; through meeting them where they live; through demonstrating your ability to find, cull, analyze, and use the right data at the right time.

Data intelligence and big data decision making can be a game changer with Millennials and can help form the basis for long and trusted relationships. Here are seven ways to build trust through technology with this powerful group:

Use (But Don’t Abuse) Data
Millennials embrace the concept of big data – with three quarters saying they fully understand the types of information and data that companies collect and share about them, according to the Telefónica Global Millennial Survey.

But don’t overstep your bounds. A few (unspoken) rules: Only collect the data that truly benefits members and donors and that enhances their experience with your organization. And, make it clear why you’re collecting it. Also, give your constituents control over their data. For example, instead of making them opt out, why not ask them to opt in? And give them plenty of opportunity on your website and other social outlets for feedback and data input.   

Combine Multiple Data Points for Clearer Profiles and Stronger Connections
Using one data point to target many Millennials widens the gap between their expectations and your organization. After all, these digital natives have grown up with sophisticated algorithms from the likes of Google, Amazon, and Netflix that automatically know what they want, maybe even before they do!

You don’t necessarily need to develop proprietary algorithms, but you do need to take a chapter from their book, and use multiple data points to inform your decisions. Members and donors are telling organizations their channel preferences, interests and content preferences, and even the time of year and type of communications and appeals they prefer. Using these multiple data points to target individuals will improve their experience and increase engagement and retention – matching the experiences they have with other entities in their daily lives.

Show Proof You’re Protecting Data
In a recent study from digital credentialing management firm Intercede, 54 percent of Millennials say a business's failure to implement strong password safeguards and other cybersecurity protocols will result in public distrust of its goods and services. Fewer than 5 percent of respondents believe companies' websites protect their identity and personal data effectively. Make sure you have solid security protocols in place, and communicate those to your constituents.

Supplement Your Internal Data
Most associations and nonprofits have someone on staff analyzing internal data housed in association management and donor management systems – whether it’s their primary responsibility or “other duties as assigned.” But few have a librarian, research analyst, or consulting firm pulling and culling data from the outside world. You should invest in that now. All data points – internal and external – should be feeding the conversation and driving your decisions.

Be Honest and Transparent About Your Offerings
Millennials are connected 24/7/365. This constant connectedness means they can – and likely will – fact check what you’re saying and doing. If you’re not completely transparent about your mission and results, Millennials will be quick to dig up any unflattering information and not be shy about sharing it. Your credibility and bottom line will take a hit. On the flipside, when you’re forthright, you build trust and loyalty.

Make Every Effort to Connect with Millennials
Millennials respond to engagement and integrity. In its study of 23,000+ consumers in more than two dozen countries, global communications marketing firm Edelman defined engagement and integrity as the primary building blocks required to build trust and loyalty with your audience. The study reveals, “Millennials want you to connect with them in a way that is true to your brand and business, and they want to see the numbers behind how you are building ethical business practices and taking responsible action towards social issues.”

Be All-Inclusive
Millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history, according to Pew Research Center findings. Some 43 percent of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation. Make sure your online advertising and marketing, including your website and all social media outlets reflect and recognize this diversification.

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About the Author
Carlos Restrepo, CAE, is Senior Director of Account Services for Abila. Carlos is a seasoned association professional, having worked with and for the nonprofit sector since 1995. He’s an active participant in the association community, with demonstrated expertise in leadership, strategic use of data, customer recruitment and retention, association management software (AMS) selection, and strategic planning. Carlos holds an MS in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, and a BS in Health Administration from Lehman College, CUNY, in New York, New York.


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