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The millennial generation is different – no doubt about it. They're always connected and in constant feedback loops with friends, family and the community at large. However, this connectedness is achieved through technology, which is why charities find it so difficult to reach millennials using traditional channels and donation options. While boomers continue to be a generous group, millennials will soon begin to fill their donation shoes as they move into their prime earning years. To take advantage of the rising spending power of this tech savvy demographic, charities must evolve and adapt to the latest innovations and trends.

One such area of innovation, payments, is changing as quickly as social networking apps rise and fall. Millennials will dictate how they want to pay and be paid, via any mobile device at any time from any place. Organizations need to anticipate changing consumer preference and choice; convenience is becoming one of the most important factors for the connected generation.

With the future of fundraising and giving in the hands of our millennials, here are three ways to engage and empower them to dig deep and donate:

Embrace social media maestros

Understanding how to develop a targeted social media strategy for amplification purposes will help propel your organization forward. A prime example is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which went viral in August 2014 and raised $100 million for the ALS Association.

Of course, not every campaign is going to become "viral" but using social channels like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram can help direct millennials to your optimized website. Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada, for example, leverage their alumni to build and maintain fresh social media content.

The next and perhaps obvious connection is to enable social media engagement to make volunteering or donating a social phenomenon. Millennials are proud of their efforts to support causes that matter to them. Providing them a social channel (or even a hashtag like #GivingTuesday) to share the news of their volunteer efforts or donation allows them to 'pay it forward,' and encourages their network to participate too.

Convenience matters: Make the move to mobile

Today we use our devices for almost everything – constant communication, shopping, watching our favourite TV series, and more. According to a Pew Internet Project report, 44 per cent of us actually sleep with our phones so that we don't miss anything. And when purchasing goods, a November 2015 SMSGlobal study found that 50 per cent of online retail traffic now comes from mobile.

Clearly, if your donations aren't optimized for mobile, you're going to miss out on millennials. Another study by Blackbaud and HJC found that that 83 per cent of millennials owned a smartphone and more than half of them were likely to give by mobile phone.

Consider a few recent examples of how organizations drove donations through mobile devices:

Literally tapping into the massive uptake of mobile payments, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation (PMCF) provides a great example of making donations more convenient for the wired generation. At PMCF's recent 2015 Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer tournament, they partnered with Visa, Mobeewave and Global Payments to collect donations by a tap of the card on a stand-alone mobile phone.

In another example this year, Visa partnered with Movember to help drive online donations. Visa had assets that could help shape a charitable endeavour – an existing sponsorship with the NHL (and their hirsute players!) which would connect with Canadians from coast to coast, and Visa Checkout, a solution which would simplify the online donation process.

We aligned with Movember Canada to launch an interactive toolkit for participants that leveraged popular NHL players to help solicit donations via Visa Checkout. The toolkit tapped into the millennial desire for personalization and presented a highly sharable social media solution to help amplify Movember's overall cause.

To add more value, Visa tagged on an extra $10 for every donation made using Visa Checkout – this incented donations, and also allowed for us at Visa to make a sizable contribution. The result was thousands of Canadians using the fundraising toolkit and making donations in a simple and convenient manner.

Accountability and acknowledgment

With the swell in millennial donors and volunteers comes their desire for accountability and transparency. Millennials want to know how you are planning to do the right thing with the money they've given you.

The good news is that with an earned online donation you may earn the right to reach out to donors via email or social media to gather ideas and to provide fundraising updates. Use visuals, anecdotes and real case studies to show, and not necessarily tell, how each donation matters.

Lastly, generally speaking, millennials are the generation that likes to be recognized for doing good. Thanking them for their volunteer effort or donation directly on their social feeds is a great way to acknowledge their support and a personalized response will help keep them engaged as caring participants, and as your brand's ambassadors, well beyond these early-giving years.

Rob Livingston is president and country manager, Visa Canada, and chair of the board, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.

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