Even though they’ve been around for decades, millennials are still somewhat of a mystery when it comes to engaging them within the Catholic Church. Oftentimes thought of as a self-seeking group always plugged into their iPhones, they are actually a misunderstood group due to being polar opposites of previous generations. So in order to find out how best to engage millennial givers within the Church, it’s imperative to learn who they are and what they value most.
Who They Are & What Defines Them
According to Pew Research, millennials are thought to be those born from 1981 to 1996, and nearly 83 million men and women fall within this age group. They had to experience the massive change of life after 9/11, and later struggled to make their way as adults through the 2008 recession. Those who graduated from college before 2008 had their early careers impacted, while others may have had their education influenced by it (such as choosing a different major than the one they originally wanted due to career options available at the time).
Technology also plays a factor in the dividing lines between generations. A Pew Research study gives an example that the oldest “Post-millennial” members would have been 10 when the iPhone was introduced, whereas many millennials will still have memories of landlines and rotary phones. As technology advanced throughout the years, however, they whole-heartily embraced the trends, and most are very comfortable with current and emerging technology.
What They Value
Millennials tend to value experiences over possessions — and this translates over to their careers, family life, and yes, religion, as well. For millennials, it’s all about finding a connection between their faith and their desire to make a difference in the world. And it’s up to those in the Church to help guide them to that desired connection at the right time, place, and most importantly, in the right way. We need to find a way to invite them into the beauty of the Catholic Church in a way that compels them to jump in whole heartily.
Millennials prefer to serve people and causes, rather than institutions, and believe that their assets — their time and talent — are just as beneficial, if not more so, than their treasure. This mindset naturally leads them to follow their hearts and seek out experiences that have an impact on both themselves and those around them.
Some parishes are taking this kind of mindset to heart and thus downsizing their collections. Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, has a collection called “Change for a Dollar,” a ministry that allows anyone from anywhere to nominate someone they believe could benefit from financial help.
A second collection is then taken up the last Sunday of the month, where parishioners are encouraged to give one extra dollar in addition to their normal weekly donation. The money collected is then given to an individual or family in need for immediate assistance. This crowdfunding-type of collection is easy to explain and requires little effort on the part of the donors.
Make One-time Givers Ongoing Givers
Today more than ever, people have so many options when it comes to supporting causes and people financially. In order to capture their dollars, parishes need to tell their story and explain exactly how millennial donors will make a difference with what they give — and the best way to do that is through a mixture of storytelling and online giving.
This generation is used to making payments and donations online, both planned and spontaneous. They grew up on crowdfunding efforts and know how big a difference one small contribution can make. They tend to give with their hearts, which is why a good recurring online donation option is essential to reaching them. Once you find a way to tell the story of your parish to this particular generation of givers, you need to make it easy for them to give.
Rather than asking them to contribute $225 a year in a lump sum, break that up into smaller, more manageable yet consistent donations. Asking for $20 a week, or $50 a month, will appeal to them much more than a one-time donation that they will need to renew each time. If your parish has the ability to sign people up for weekly or monthly recurring donations, you’ll find that lots of millennials will take advantage of that option.
Give Them a Reason to Trust Your Community
According to the 2018 Customer Engagement & Loyalty Statistics, 70 percent of millennials are loyal to brands they trust, and will return to them on a consistent basis if they agree with the company’s values. This also rings true for those who are religious. If they feel they can trust their parish to make good use of the funds they donate, they will continue to donate on a regular basis. However, if they don’t agree, or begin to mistrust the pastor or parish leadership, they have no problem walking away and finding some place they can trust.
And so, it’s up to parish leaders to cultivate that trust by being open and transparent with them on how money is spent, and being open to any suggestions they may have. For example, keep an open mind to what kinds of talents they can contribute. Does your website need a makeover? Do you need a social media strategy? What about exploring better giving options for the whole faith community? Allow some young adults in your parish to research, recommend, and implement some new ideas into growing and maintaining the church.