Engaging Generation Z

By Project Manager, Heather Thornton

Recently, my teenage cousin came for a short visit. She is an amazing kid – smart, funny, engaging…so much so that I sometimes forget I am dealing with a 15-year old and not an older, more mature person. I would say that she represents a fairly typical Gen Zer, those born in the late 1990s or later. (Well, OK – I personally think she is above-average in most aspects, but I am admittedly biased.)

During her visit, we did many fun and touristy activities, interspersed with some educational opportunities along the way. At lunch one day, we got to talking about activities she was involved in outside of school, and I asked her if she was active with any nonprofits – did she volunteer anywhere, or want to? Did she know about different local or national nonprofits? If so, which ones?

I found her answer shocking – she did not volunteer, she did not particularly want to, nor did any of her close friends. And, her knowledge about nonprofits was very limited. This got me thinking about how nonprofits could go about engaging bright, smart young adults such as my cousin who, I think, have something to offer.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published an article containing advice on reaching out to this generation of young folks. The article suggested several approaches, including the following:

  1. Ask for creative input by putting each person’s specific skills or talents to work, whether this is asking for help with your organization’s website, feedback on a flyer for an event, or some other creative activity.
  2. Treat them as knowledgeable teammates.
  3. Be open and honest with them; transparency is important.
  4. Use good design tactics, which Gen Zers seem to appreciate. This could be particularly useful in regards to your website or marketing materials.

I might also add to this list the importance of using social media as an outreach tool. If my cousin is any indication of the typical Gen Zer, her phone could basically be considered an extra appendage, and she is savvier with technology than I could have ever hoped to be at her age.

Let’s not forget about engaging Generation Z – our younger generation of potential volunteers and donors!

(Note: You will need a Chronicle of Philanthropy subscription to view the whole article.)