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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Have you fallen for this fundraising myth about millennials?

Julie Whelan Capell |

How many times have you heard that millennials (and younger cohorts) would rather get texts than phone calls or emails? The truth, as in many things, is complicated. It’s not that you should never make a phone call to a millennial, but you need to understand when to use a phone call versus a text versus an email.

In her book “Alone Together” Sherry Turkle, a social sciences professor at MIT, discusses how technology has fundamentally changed the way all of us connect with each other.  According to Turkle, all of us, but especially young people, have clear ideas about what kinds of messages “fit” with which platforms.


How millennials view phone calls v texts v emails

In her research, Turkle interviewed hundreds of millennials. Here’s a distillation of what she found:

  • Phone calls – Primarily used to talk with family. Phone calls are too spontaneous. Millennials in Turkle’s study were afraid they might accidentally reveal something on a phone call. Also, they said phone calls were too time-consuming.
  • Texts – Used less to have conversations and more to signal emotions or “try out” feelings. Also used when the texter is looking for support since millennials feel social pressure to respond to texts quickly (Millennials have a nearly 100% open rate for texts!). Best for informal communications.
  • Emails – Only used on the job. This medium demands a more formal writing style.

Importantly, Turkle found that people of all ages say telephone calls are too intrusive. A 52-year-old office manager told Turkle:

“A call feels like an intrusion, as though I would be intruding on my friends. But also, if they call me, I feel they are intruding. . . . After work . . . . I’m tired, I’m not ready for people–I mean people in person.”

The flip side of this is that when people do have a phone conversation, they understand the stakes are high. As one young man put it:

“They’re disappointed if I’m like, not talking about being depressed, about contemplating a divorce, about being fired. . . . You ask for private cell time, you better come up with the goods.”

So should fundraisers call millennials on the phone?

None of this means we should never call millennials (or others) on the phone. I do think it means that when we call, we better have a really good reason.

In my next post, I’ll discuss more about connecting with millennial donors. Need help with your donor communications? Contact us by phone OR text OR email– We use them all {smile]

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