5 Things Nonprofits Must Do To Captivate Millennials

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Editor’s Note: I am so excited to have Rachael Seda on the IG Blog! She’s one of the most fun people I know (funnest?) both online and offline. Rachael grew up barefoot in Hawaii yet she’s always dreamed of traveling the world. She is a professed social media geek with a severe weakness for cheese. As an Account Executive at CRT/tanaka, a public relations and marketing agency, she gets to do what she loves everyday.

I have a short attention span, but I rock at multitasking. I may get bored easy but if you capture my attention, I could become your number one advocate (or worst nightmare). Please just cut to the chase, there’s no need for lengthy instructions; to me a picture’s worth a thousand words. At about 80 million strong, by 2017 these Americans, born between 1980-2000, will have more spending power than any other generation before us. You call me a millennial, but I prefer Rachael.

Like most non-profits, you probably realize that if your organization has any chance of  succeeding well into the future, you need to captivate the millennial audience. Unfortunately, my generation isn’t as easy to fool and our attention is gained and lost in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to find us and it’s even harder to keep us.

The good news? Millennials are generous and we care about giving back. In fact a 2010 survey found that 93% of millennials said they gave to a cause.

What does this mean for non-profits? If you figure out the secret sauce to reaching us now, not only will you execute better fundraising campaigns, but you increase your chances of creating lifelong donors.

Here are 5 things you need to start doing if you want to captivate my fellow millennials:

1. Show Us You’re Tech Savvy

I hope this is a given, but if you’re avoiding social media and technology, you need to come out from under your shell ASAP. Go experiment personally. Sign up for a personal Twitter account, see what Pinterest is all about, and keep up with what’s new in the industry by reading social media blogs (like this one). But please act like a human. Be genuine. We don’t respond well to the fakes. And if you really want to understand millennials, you have to learn how to use a smart phone. We don’t know what life is without an iPhone in our hand, and of the 34 percent of us who make direct donations to causes, almost half donate using their mobile device. If you find us where we are, make it easy to give, and are genuine, we may just respond in your favor.

2.  KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

We don’t love Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest for no reason. The more simple and to the point you are, the more likely it is you haven’t lost our attention to the screaming zombies on The Walking Dead. Focus on making your information digestible, quotable, and shareable. I can’t think of a better example than Oxfam America’s (OA) International Women Day campaign that I worked on with Shonali Burke. OA had a clear call-to-action and a simple message; send an e-card to a woman in your life. In order to send one of the four inspiring e-cards all you needed to do was enter your email address. The end-goal was to secure as many new constituents to OA’s eCommunity as possible and so they could reach out to them and hopefully convert them into evangelists and donors. The result? OA secured 752 new constituents to its eCommunity via the eCards—a 288% increase compared to 261 in 2011.

3.  Move Fast and Hit Hard

Millennials can send a picture of you sneezing to everyone they know (and don’t know) quicker than you can say “Excuse me.” We want info now and want to be intensely entertained and engaged. While we care about causes and giving back, we’re also accustomed to receiving immediate gratification. Creativity gets our attention. If you design a cause marketing campaign that is relevant, has a direct call-to-action, allows us to watch the impact occur in real time, and your responsive, we’ll be all over it!

4.  Trigger Our Emotions

Think about what we care about. Hit our emotions. We respond to humor, are nostalgic and enjoy making (and capturing) memories. If you tug on our heartstrings (in a creative and genuine way), we’ll respond. We grew up with recycling engrained in us to the point where we feel guilty throwing a can in the dumpster. If you appeal to our emotions and create something shareable, we’ve been known to do your marketing for you.

5.  Get Us Involved

We don’t just want to give away our money we want to feel like we’re part of the solution. We want to do something to help. How can you make your campaign interactive? How can you create “champions” for your cause? If you make it important to us, and make us feel involved in helping a worthy cause, we will get involved.

A recent campaign that’s bound to capture millennials is “Pinning for Pets” launched by BISSELL (a client at the agency, CRT/tanaka where I work). The Pinterest-based campaign is designed to raise funds for animal shelters around the U.S. For every Pinning for Pets board created and submitted (following these guidelines), the BISSELL Pet Foundation will donate $10 to the Petfinder Foundation. We’re already on Pinterest pinning cute animal pictures. You say I can help support a good cause at the same time? Count me in. If you give us millennials the opportunity to get involved and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Moral of the Story?

We’re an ambitious and compassionate group, undoubtedly shaped by the worst economic recession since the Great Depression and disasters such as 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. The result? A socially-conscious generation amplified by technology. Why not join us?

What other tips do you have to help non-profits reach millennials?

61 thoughts on “5 Things Nonprofits Must Do To Captivate Millennials”

  1. Still can’t get her to wear shoes… As always, Rachel offers smart tips. We all must get ready for the Millennial takeover — especially non-profits.

  2. Extremely well-written, Rachael. I agree on all counts! I keep telling my mom that, despite the fact that we haven’t through a full-fledged world war, we have had an innumerate amount of tough events that have shaped our generation. Kudos!

    1. Thanks Char for reading and for the comment. We sure have, I even was surprised when I thought about it myself. I think there’s a lot of great things our generation is doing that are overlooked. I hope each of us can do our part to prove the negative stereotypes wrong!

  3. Extremely well-written, Rachael. I agree on all counts! I keep telling my mom that, despite the fact that we haven’t been through a full-fledged world war, we have had an innumerate amount of tough events that have shaped our generation. Kudos!

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  5. This generation has great ideas for solving problems and can be a great resource to help non-profits figure out how to do what they do – better! I’m always amazed at the creativity and excitement this generation can bring to a conversation, if you just ask them!

  6. Co Signed – Respect! We Value Our Connection With You! Appreciate you sharing… #Enjoy! #Believe! #Receive! #Achieve! #Be! #StaySafe… #StayClose (-:nnMUCH RESPECT TO YOU!n”#SpiritWarriorWay”n(#HopeFaithLove)nwww.KokoroBushiDo.com n

  7. Totally true tips and even applicable to non-millennials. Your last point resonates most with us. We got to see the power of this group at LeakyCon, the Harry Potter conference. This group is so excited, and so influential, about social causes that it makes definite sense to not only include them, but built something special for them, especially if it’s organically grown from something they already care about. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thank you for the comment! Sorry for my delayed response. You’re right as I was writing this I thought this isn’t just millennials anymore, we’re all changing whether we realize it or not. The organizations that stay one step ahead and are open to testing new things out will definitely thrive. It really is inspiring to see how passionate this generation is about social causes, it gets me excited every time I’m in a room with fellow peers that are passionate about doing good!

  8. Hi Rachael, I enjoyed your post reading it has given me insight on the direction needed to reach a younger generation. The organization I work for helps men and women released from prison that want to turn their life around and start with a new beginning.

  9. Sf nonprofit worker

    Does anyone else see the inherent selfishness in this vision of millennials? If you entertain me, then I might get involved a little bit. Spend way more money engaging me and thrilling me than I’ll ever contribute, and perhaps you’ll hold my attention… for a minute. I find this kind of gross, and I’m only 35.

    1. i agree. i’m even older than you at a decrepit 36. but what can you do? if this is what we have, we have to try to be a bit nimble.

      1. That’s not old at all! Like I told SF nonprofit worker we just process things and learn differently and adapting to our way of processing information can truly benefit your nonprofit and the cause you represent. Seems like a win win to me. Thanks for the comment!

    2. “Spend way more money engaging me”? Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest don’t really cost anything. The non-profit I work for has found it quite beneficial. Also, if that’s what it takes to attract millenials then do it. Eventually the boomers are going to die out. Then we’ll be left with gen-x and millenials. Didn’t gen-x get pinned with being slackers?

    3. We are the largest age group out there so the 93% of us that contribute a little bit adds up to a whole lot. And rather than fighting what is, try it and maybe we’ll contribute enough to your non-profit agency that you’ll have more time to reply to articles and seek training that will help the company survive this trying time. By the way 43% of the population is under the age 25!

      1. And you mature and get older. Being ignorant and immature is not an endorsement for nonprofits to development Disneyland-type media to engage a bunch of kids that’s going to support or NOT support.nMoral of the story, grow up, get you head out of your ass, be responsible to something or someone and READ a book! America and its crippled uneducated workforce.

  10. Millennials are not as smart as they think they are. The main thing is to show up with a reasonable presence where they are located: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. Give them something interesting (distract them with something fun, but not overly complicated for their little brains). Realize also that many Millennials are not that tech savvy, and so an offline/old-media presence is also important. Make sure the content is naturally sharable and fun, and something they can identify with.

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  12. Thanks for the great insight, Rachael! I have our animal rescue group on Facebook but have been reluctant to dive into Twitter, Pinterest and some of the other services, although I did creat a LinkedIn account and it is through that account that I received the link to your article. I guess I’m going to have to expand our sphere of communication mediums. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Rick! I’m not sure how I missed all these great comments. Anyhow! Starting small is good, you don’t want to exhaust all your efforts. Use a couple mediums well and see how that goes and what seems to work and slowly test out other water. Animal rescue is such a great visual too, Pinterest would definitely be fun!

  13. Great insight. I have had an idea that this was te case and began implementing some of these strategies but I need to picknUp my game a little more and stop avoiding pinterest and some others. I am going to share this insight with my committee at our meeting today.

    1. That’s great MJ. Sorry for the delayed response! I hope the meeting went well! If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out. It’s all about trial and error. Personally I think it’s really intriguing to see what appeals to different audiences!

  14. proud band parent

    would love to have you on our side . santaluces high school marching chiefs . perhaps a seminar where you are the guest speaker nnyou donate your time we charge a fee give back a percentage. we are considered non-profit and fundraise for these mhard working devoted responsible marching students with no help from school board

  15. Edwardson Barcenilla

    Rachel good morning, how are you mam? Thank you for giving me a chance to make a message for you thru this sophisticated king of instrument which could be a great favor to our non government org. Our organization Knights of Federal Farmers and Fishermen Organization Inc. We have enter a challenge to GlobalGiving Foundation and we are looking for someone like you to help us. if God permit thank you mam Rachel. We are hoping you could come in our place Barangay Malingin Bago City Negros Occidental Philippines. Thank you again.

  16. Rachael,nI just came across your thoughtful article. Even for those of us who are considered “immigrants” to technology, donating via my smart phone has been very appealing to me as a busy working mother. It’s not only easy but saves me a lot of time. You’ve inspire me to continue to strive to become more technologically savvy!

    1. Thanks for sharing Mary! You’re too kind. If you think about it, if we take a little time to learn technology (just like we have with phones, computers etc.) and test different things out we can see what helps make our lives easier. And it can be helpful to see what intrigues consumers from a business stand point as well. My best friend is a new mom and her phone is her everything so it’s easy to see how important mobile is for many different people.

  17. Rachael,nEven though I’m too old to be considered a millenium, (Individuals my age are considered “technology immigrants”! haha), I enjoyed your article and couldn’t AGREE more! I am more inclined to make a donation via my smart phone because it is convenient and easy. You inspire me to keep learning.

  18. Fundraiser for Ministry

    Love the article. Great advice. Do you have any advice on where I can find someone that can help me with this kind of stuff?

    1. Hi Fundraiser for Ministry, I’d love to help you find someone. Are you looking for someone to work in house with you or someone you can contract for this type of work? Feel free to email me at rachaelseda (at) gmail (dot) com

  19. As a 29 year old museum director, I’ve been trying to explain these exact things to my (much older) Board of Trustees. They can’t understand why our traditional membership has plummeted in the past twenty years (of a 130 year history). I solved the problem in a variety of creative ways that can only be summed up as “decentralized” communication forms (#1 & #3). De-emphasizing traditional membership in favor of “champion” situations — as you point out in #5 — worked to bring young people into the “cause” (#4). It’s not easy to build community in a generation that grew up in the suburbs, struggled to find meaningful employment in their own post-industrial/ post-agricultural communities and is distracted by social media, personal devices, delayed job opportunities, delayed families, etc. Now that you’ve put it into a simple outline (#2) I can share it with my Board and show them that at least one other person thinks we’re on the right track.

    1. I had a similar experience with a membership organization. At the end of the day, recruiting new members is essential to the organization’s survival. Little by little you can help your organization realize this and figure out how to change. And what a better time to embrace change than the New Year! I hope your board enjoys the post. Thanks for the comment!

    2. I had a similar experience with a membership organization. At the end of the day, recruiting new members is essential to the organization’s survival. Little by little you can help your organization realize this and figure out how to change. And what a better time to embrace change than the New Year! I hope your board enjoys the post. Thanks for the comment!

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  23. Doris Rumbidzai Chidavaenzi

    I’ve learned A WHOLE LOT from your article Rachael. It will definitely help us improve on the way we’ve been doing things.

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