HomeNovember 2013Seeking Synergy

Seeking Synergy

What exactly is a Millennial?  A Millennial is a person in Gen Y, born between 1982 and 2000.  Millennials, like me, are replacing the baby boomer generation in both jobs and leadership positions.  This trend is not just locally in Orange County, but nationally.  Millennials are drastically different from previous generations and challenge the way that the Jewish community operates with prior community norms.  Lexy Gross, a reporter from USA TODAY, says this difference between Millennials and prior generations comes from being, “tapped into different workplace and [different] social abilities than any generation before them.”  Social media is just one major component that separates us from previous generations.
According to stereotypes of Millennials, we are more concerned with technology than we are with one another.  This is not true; technology allows Millennials to expand a job search, aids in same-faith dating and helps with current events.  Millennials are consumed with our own projects.  These projects are usually ones that better our lives and communities.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, most people in this demographic want to give back to their community in some way.
Why is it important to understand Millennials and our behaviors?  The Jewish community’s established structure is based on membership and dues at annual costs.  The old “pay to play” model is less appealing for many.  The Millennial Impact Report provides clarity on how Millennials like to give for both membership and philanthropically.  The report states that “52% of respondents said they’d be interested in monthly giving.”  When organizations present a small portion, as differentiated from a lump sum, it makes the giving tangible.  Membership is costly; Millennials are in no rush to join an organization or a congregation without experiencing its value first.
Combined with the “pay to play” model, Millennials are typically interested in organizations that are specialized.  They are willing to pay more if they understand what they offer and enjoy it.  It is not that Jewish organizations have nothing to offer, they do!  However, the benefits of joining some organizations are less apparent to the typical Millennial who is unfamiliar with the organization’s services and opportunities.  How can this be remedied?  Organizations can contact Jewish interest groups that target this NextGen demographic.  Vibrant websites, apps for phones and social media are other ways to connect with Millennials and advertise events and services.
We like to be engaged in religious activities as well as social-secular activities.  Millennials appreciate variety.  However, if the event is priced outside of a normal evening’s spending limit, Millennials are hard to attract.  Good variety for Millennials is, but is not limited to: business networking events, leadership training and large parties.  Millennials value a community and would like to take part in events that enrich their Jewish lifestyle.
Jewish giving is a challenge for this demographic.  Jewish causes are funded almost exclusively by Jewish people.  The Jewish Home for the Aging, synagogues, Jewish educational venues, Jewish nonprofits and many more organizations that perpetuate and ensure Jewish life have to work that much harder as the need for their services continues to grow and the pool of Jewish donors continues to shrink.  Millennials do donate their money to important and compelling causes such as cancer research, animal rights groups and environmental issues.  We want to be able to follow our money, rather than seeing it fall into a large aggregate sum, and we like to know we are directly supporting a cause of our choice.  Jewish agencies can easily tap into a Millennial’s love for grassroots organizations and direct giving if they specifically show where the donation is going.
Millennials are the next OC community lay leaders.  Understanding the change in model and empowering this specific demographic will only enrich OC’s community, one generation at a time.

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