BY SAMANTHA KOHMAN
While attending Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Rally in Providence, RI, this September, I went to a session titled “Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Supporters.” This session was very inspiring and sparked my interest. I ended up coming home with many new ideas and programs to possibly implement at Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK) in the future.
The term “millennial” was used in nearly all the workshops I attended at LTA Rally. At every session, it was clear the message was to start engaging young people in your organization. Millennials, or Generation Y, were born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. Studies have shown they tend to give differently and for different reasons than older generations. Millennials give to a cause that connects to their values and believe that volunteering their time and skills through their networks are as valuable as donating money. Their intelligence and technology use are some traits that make millennials unique. Seventy-five percent of millennials are single and ready to do hands-on activities or volunteer for a cause important to them before starting a family.
You likely heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral through social media channels this past summer. The ALS Foundation earned over five times as much as they did last year due to this brilliant marketing ploy. People [millennials] are interested in attention, and they are interested in seeing their friends pour a bucket of ice water on their heads, but let’s be honest, nobody is interested in seeing a check for $100 be given to charity. As an ag communications major, I am more than interested in what grabs a person’s attention and what drives someone to give, especially to RTK. Trust me; it is not easy to capture the attention of millennials.
Ibelieve the research I brought back to Kansas will be very beneficial to RTK. The importance of a younger generation getting involved with RTK will become more significant each year. Research has shown the membership demographics of land trusts often skew toward older generations. Land will change ownership, so educating these new landowners and gaining them as RTK supporters will be important. Every non-profit organization faces the challenge of an aging donor base, but this is our chance to involve the next generation of conservation supporters in the work we do. We must engage them and prepare them for future leadership positions at RTK and other conservation- and agriculture-based organizations.
As a millennial myself, it is my hope that implementing a new generation committee or program at RTK will spark more interest towards the importance of land conservation in people my age. If we can inform a group of millennials each year about the importance of our work, we will have a strong group of ambassadors and future supporters.
RTK plans to implement a new program in 2015 to engage this young generation. It will consist of a seminar with the chance to visit with landowners, board members and staff to learn about the history and purpose of RTK. Another seminar will take place at a ranch where RTK holds a conservation easement. After this short orientation phase of the program, the “Next Generation” committee eventually will have annual meetings to help plan different activities that support RTK’s mission. We also will involve them in our current annual events. These events provide hands-on activities and volunteer opportunities and give them the power to help our organization grow. They will have the chance to meet new people and make connections that will last a lifetime. I believe they can help us as much as we can help them, and we are really looking forward to this great opportunity that will benefit all involved.
If you would like to be involved in the next generation program or any other programs or events at RTK, please contact Samantha Kohman at 785-273-5115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.