I am often warning nonprofits looking to engage young people against putting too much emphasis on giving and social media. Research I have led has shown—and continues to show—that while your next generation of supporters donate and use social media to engage with causes, these are not the actions they view as most influential. Let’s zoom out a bit so you can see the big picture and appreciate the context behind this point.

Young Americans work to fix societal problems as they define them, without waiting for anyone else’s approval or participation. In fact, nonprofits struggle to fit them and their new methods into traditional categories. Are these young people donors, volunteers, or both? Or do nonprofits perceive them as not yet worthy of attention because of their youth?

Here are two important actions you can take right now to engage Young Americans:

  • Recognize that your supporters aren’t your fans; they are believers in a cause; and
  • Move out of the spotlight; instead of positioning your nonprofit as a leader on your issue, frame your work as fighting alongside your supporters to effect change.

Young Americans don’t view money and traditional philanthropy as methods for making real social change. Just as today’s cause supporters have many repositories for giving, young people have many methods for participating in an issue.

Mere participation doesn’t necessarily mean support, though. Nonprofits must speak directly and authentically to Young America’s beliefs to have any hope of converting them to highly active supporters, and, in the future, financial donors. These young adults passionately care about those less fortunate and deeply believe in their own power to make life better for them. We must try to reach out to them where they are, with methods they respect and trust.

Read the full article about next-gen philanthropists by Julie Stiles at Blue Avocado.