Millennials and How They Pay

The oldest Millennials are turning 35 in 2016.

There is much that has been written and that will be written in the future about engaging Millennials in synagogue life. Some of my past blogs have addressed Millennials and technologysynagogue websites, social media sites like Facebook, and payment methods.

In the coming weeks, my 22 year-old daughter will be apartment hunting in Washington, DC. She had to move around some money and figure out how to get a check to be “at the ready” for the day she needs to provide a security deposit. I am no longer amazed that all of her banking and bill paying is done online. My amazement was that she doesn’t have any checks.

I read an article recently from First Data, the leading credit card processing merchant in the U.S, which helped put my daughter’s situation in perspective:

  • 20% of all Millennials have never written a check.
  • 94% of all people under age 35 do all of their bill paying and banking online.
  • 71% of Millennials consider their banking relationship to be transactional driven rather than relationship driven

I asked my daughter what she does when she has to give money to a friend who has organized a group event where everyone pays an equal amount or when she goes on a vacation with friends. She has a Venmo account, which is very similar to PayPal – which you can use also. So she is able to transfer funds from her bank account to that of her friends. Online payment is a big business as today, Apple, Google (GoogleWallet) and Facebook are all offering, or will be offering soon, such options.

I used to make the analogy that making a contribution to a not-for-profit needs to be a similar experience as buying a book on Amazon. Today it would be an e-book, or any banking or purchasing transaction. I buy e-books from Amazon. Once I select the title, the process takes maybe 30 seconds.

Online contributions – including paying dues/annual commitments – must be a similar experience. It needs to be seamless and quick. If it takes more than a minute, its really too long.

And as one of my software engineer friends taught me, “it needs to be easy on the eyes – a pleasing visual experience.”

My synagogue is moving towards all congregants being able to go to their account through a secure connection for members only. To make this month’s payment I had to find the billing statement that came as an email that I received at the beginning of June, and use the links in that email. Not optimal, and the entire transaction took me 2-3 minutes.

Now I am okay with 2-3 minutes to take care of a synagogue transaction that I wanted to pay. But most Millennials would not be as understanding.

I included the last bulleted item above, that 71% of Millennials consider their banking relationship to be transactional driven rather than relationship driven, as a reminder. A congregant’s – of any age – relationship with the synagogue can’t be about a transaction. It needs to be relational. But if, in order to pay one’s synagogue obligation takes someone out of the ordinary way that they conduct the financial affairs of their life, the focus will be on the transaction. That it is a pain.

Maybe it is a reminder of their parents’ synagogue, and that the synagogue is behind the times.

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