8 Ways Nonprofits Can Engage Millennial Donors and Volunteers

Social, Shareable, Mobile Scores With Millennials

Young employees in office setting.
•••     Gary Burchell/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Millennials, also known as NextGen, reached young adulthood around the year 2000. They tend to be between the ages of 18-35, and, despite popular myths, they are an incredibly active and passionate generation.

Marketing agency Achieve partnered with the Case Foundation to develop the first comprehensive study on Millennials. They thoroughly analyzed this generation’s participation in and connection to causes and nonprofit organizations.

Based on the findings from this fantastic report, I came up with eight ways that nonprofits can engage millennial donors and volunteers.

1. Keep your information updated.

Keep your nonprofit website, social media platforms and other information continually updated with fresh, relevant information.

For Millennials, technology is a part of everyday life. They grew up using smartphones and tablets, and they are accustomed to a lifestyle that is always “on” and where information is always readily accessible.

Millennials have no tolerance for outdated websites that function like static brochures. Posting a photo or video in real time with an update on a project is the best way to stay relevant and get the attention of nextgen supporters.

2. Make everything mobile friendly.

Your website must also be accessible to a visitor no matter where they are coming from – a mobile phone, a tablet or a desktop.

Did you know that average adult spends nearly six hours a day on their mobile devices (Meeker Report 2018)? 

And mobile communications go way beyond just donating. Surveys have shown that people are more willing than ever to receive content about a broad range of topics via mobile from the charities they support.

3. Use social media – and make your content shareable.

Millennials are entirely into social media, with some 90% of 18-29-year-olds using social networking sites.

In fact, donors and volunteers of all ages are increasingly discovering causes via social media and mobile applications.

However, just rehashing your print newsletter and cutting and pasting to Facebook isn’t enough. You must post information that people want to share with their networks.

4. Don’t forget email.

Even though social media seems all-encompassing, email is definitely not dead. If anything email has become even more important.

Make sure that your emails are easy to read on mobile devices, where over half of emails are read these days.

This means fewer images, shorter blurbs with lots of links out to information and single column layout for easy reading. 

5. Provide multiple donation options.

Make sure your Donate Now page features multiple ways to give – credit card, check, online, mobile – to make this process easier. People who have grown up accessing the internet via mobile devices have no tolerance for a lengthy, complicated donation page that is hard to use.

Also, Millennials seem very interested in monthly giving options – does your organization have a monthly giving program? 

Even if you already have a monthly giving program, rethink how you market it. Take a look at the explosion of online subscriptions services and note how fast they are growing. For instance, Netflix (streaming video), Spotify (streaming music), Stitch Fix (curated fashion), and Peloton (fitness) have all grown by double digits or more in recent years.

Now think about your monthly giving program. Millennials are more likely than most to be open to a monthly gift, especially if you can market the program even a bit in the manner of these popular subscription services.   

6. Be authentic.

Millennials are very marketing savvy, especially online. They know when they are being sold and when an organization or brand is being “cheesy”.

They require a dialog in marketing, a two-way conversation. This generation has grown up “cutting the cord,” fast-forwarding commercials and ignoring print publications with traditional ads.

You need to make your nonprofit’s message part of the conversation that Millennials are already having. Intrusion marketing and advertising are going the way of the dodo… thankfully.

7. Provide unique ways to get involved.

Getting involved with nonprofits doesn’t have to mean working at a food bank or making an online donation.

Millennials look for much more. Some clues to what they want can be found in a Gallup report that included data about how Millennials consider their work. The report found that members of this generation, among other things:

  • don't just work for a paycheck, but for a purpose
  • are not after job satisfaction, but rather development
  • don't want bosses, but coaches
  • don't want annual reviews, but ongoing conversations
  • are not interested in fixing their weaknesses but rather to develop their strengths
  • do not think a job is just a job, but instead, it is their life

It's a safe bet that Millennials bring the same expectations to their involvement with their causes. How can your nonprofit help satisfy these desires? How can you make the experience of being a donor or a volunteer more meaningful considering the values of these Millennials? 

An excellent example of how nonprofits can tap into this Millennial zeitgeist is the Young Professionals Group at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The BSO cultivates young professionals with special packages of tickets and other events. Grooming young professionals to serve on boards and advisory committees are other promising ideas.

8. Most importantly – Treat Millennials like your other donors & volunteers.

Just because they are younger does not mean that they do not want to be thanked, acknowledged and updated on the impact of their work and their donation.

Sixty percent of Millennials liked it most when nonprofits share stories about successful projects, and the people helped directly. (Sounds like most donors, doesn’t it?)

Millennials tend to be impulsive in their giving, and they are not limited to local causes. They give all over the world, to emergency relief and other crises they see on the news.

Your nonprofit is now competing on a world stage with other organizations. How are you going to set yourself apart?

Resources: