I read an interesting article about Millennials in Delta’s May 2010 Sky magazine.
“The M Factor” (written by generational speakers Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman) examined how Millennials were impacting the workplace.
Although ‘Millennials on the job’ was the focus of their article, the points made are applicable to benefit auctions. I know you’re managing volunteers as part of your auction responsibilities, so I’m going to apply the authors’ findings to how you can attract this group and get them to be a committed auction team.
Millennials are those born from the early 1980s to the year 2000.
(Gen Y is a subsection of the Millennials. You can read about Gen Y and Gen X auction guests.)
The authors emphasized that Millennials are searching for “meaning” in their work.
“Meaning” for this group is composed of six motivators.
1. They want to make a difference in the world.
“In many ways,” the authors write, “they see it as their job to clean up messes made by previous generations.”
If your organization cleanly fits into a mold of “we are cleaning up someone else’s mess,” you’ve already got an ‘in’ with this generation.
Point out the oversights of the previous generation and explain how your mission was birthed from the situation left behind. You’ll be in like flint.
2. They want to feel they are contributing.
The authors explain that younger workers need to understand how they are making a difference for the boss, for the customers, for their team members, and so forth.
When using Millennials in your auction, connect the dots for them.
The auction raises money for XYZ program, which ensures 100 homeless kids each year are provided shelter / saves 250 dogs from euthanasia / funds research for brain cancer.
Your Millennial volunteer should understand the relation between your auction’s success and your programs.
3. They want to be innovators
Millennials have received high marks for their ability to create and innovate.
Technology is easy for them to understand and they love gadgets. This is good news for you. If you’re needing to create a Powerpoint presentation or a video about your group’s success stories, hand that project over to Millennials.
If you’re trying to tackle a new problem, ask some Millennials to sit on the sub-committee.
If you’re trying to get young professionals involved in your event, ask these young professionals (AKA Millennials) to develop a plan of action.
4. They want to be heard
“Time and again,” the authors wrote, “Millennials have told us it isn’t about whether all their ideas are accepted; it’s more about feeling someone is willing to hear what they have to say.”
Listen to them; ask their opinion.
“We’re trying to figure out a better online registration process,” you might say, “could you take a look at it and offer some opinions?”
5. They want to know they’re succeeding
Millennials were raised with standardized testing and are accustomed to being rewarded for progress.
“The main point isn’t to tell them that they did well…” the authors write, “it’s to tell them what they did well.”
Well, this sounds like good common sense. I think everyone — Millennials or not — enjoy hearing “atta boys.”
Furthermore, being told that you did that really well is good etiquette.
“Emma, we really appreciated your help in asking Jim for that Texas trip donation. He donated it, and it rounded out the live auction. We sold it for $2000.” That’s a specific compliment. (And it just feels good saying it).
6. They want to express who they are through work
This might be the toughest motivator for you to master.
“From individual taste expressed via clothes or personalized websites, to inventing their own charitable causes, Millennials have found meaning in self-definition and self-expression,” write Lancaster and Stillman.
OK, watch out.
My experience has been that non-profits (at least the medium-to-large ones) have certain norms that need to be followed. There are procedures. There is protocol.
Self-expression is allowed, but only to a point.
The article gave an example of how this was being incorporated in the for-profit world.
In one case, employees could choose their own titles from a list of approved ones. If you’re an external sales representative, you might opt for “sales professional,” “customer account executive,” or another approved title. In another example, a company let Millennials run the annual charitable-giving campaign.
What can you offer?
Is there a chunky side project the Millennials can oversee? Do they get decor decisions? Do they create the auction website and social media plan? Options may abound.
In conclusion, your charity is meaningful and Millennials are seeking meaning. This is a perfect fit. If you can find the right Millennial partners, you can look forward to a productive relationship.