What Spotify Can Teach Us About Millennial Giving

“1,000 Songs in your Pocket” was the bold announcement made by Apple at the arrival of the iPod in 2001. For over a decade, newly announced “Millennials” have taken ownership of their music through Apple’s iTunes Store and relished in the sounds from hip white ear buds. As a high school student, I downloaded music from iTunes almost daily, spending my summer bus boy money on the most recently launched rap albums and on country classics (Upstate New York goes for some variety in their music). During my senior year of college, however, I received an invite for a new online service called Spotify that would change the way I would consume music.

Maybe it’s because of the financial crisis of 2008 or maybe it’s because of an increased value put upon on experiences over things, but many Millennials prefer renting over the cost of ownership. Spotify has capitalized on this trend by creating a music streaming service that provides “Music for Every Moment.” Spotify lets you pick music from their library of over 20 million songs and to create collaborative playlists.

Of course, Spotify is not the only music streaming service available. Pandora and SoundCloud are two others that come quickly to mind for app users. Yet, there are certain lessons from Spotify that can teach us much about Millennial giving.

Subscription Based Giving

After issuing users a free rendition of their service with ads and limited mobile capability, Spotify will up-sell users to a premium account for a monthly payment. In a similar way, institutions should think about what additional “features,” content, or access they can give to their alumni for a “premium” experience. Also, instead of asking alumni upfront once a year for a donation, institutions should reflect on utilizing monthly installments, as utilized by Rice University for this centennial campaign aimed at young alumni.

Make Giving Custom and Social

This summer, I was fortunate to present at CASE Summit on the topic of “Letting Social Be Social.” During the talk, I discussed the need to guide young alumni with a custom experience that is centered around openness.  Spotify gives this experience to users when logging-in by suggesting music and keeping the user up to date with what their friends are listening to. Likewise, there’s a great opportunity for alumni associations to present causes to alumni that they would be interested in giving to, based off their past giving history and the donations of their peers. Many institutions are seeing this trend now with the rise of crowd-funding, as we highlighted in the recovery effort for Boston Marathon Bombing Victim Dic Donahue.

These acts of social collaboration, as represented in playlists where different users can edit and add tracks, are an important part of appealing to Millenials.

As mentioned by Adnan Mahumd, Founder of Jolkona, “….this generation represents an epic shift in the way young people get involved, spend money, work together, and negotiate systems. They are transparent and collaborative; they don’t care about hierarchy or silos; they want solutions; and they use a revolutionary set of interactive, instant, and personalized technologies to navigate the world.” 

Give Me Mobile, APIs

A recent study from Blackbaud highlighted that 64% of Millennials are willing to donate from their phone. ZipCar has also found that the majority of Millenials would rather give up driving than their cell phone. Additionally, this generation is accustomed to a world of plugging in services together. While they might not call it “using APIs,” they are looking for the mobile-first and app-centric type of usability that Spotify provides.

Whether adapting your alumni site to responsive design, or tapping into third party apps like EventBrite for event entry (as we highlighted in our Fundraisers Guide to the App Store), your mobile and API strategy is sure to increasingly grow in importance as this new generation continues to make their mark!

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