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How Millennials are Changing Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising

Nonprofit Fundraising

Did you know that Millennials now make up the majority of the USA workforce?

In fact, it’s been this way for over a year now.

As the largest income-generating generation in America right now, nonprofits must have a strategic approach to engaging Millennials in their marketing and fundraising.

And, while it’s true that foundational principles of nonprofit marketing will never change, you would be remiss to think that your approach to marketing to millennials doesn’t need to adapt at all.

In fact, Millennials are having a significant impact on the nonprofit marketing landscape.

But don’t panic. It’s all manageable as long as you start paying attention to it now and develop a marketing strategy that is in line with this changing landscape.

Below I’ll walk you through the most important things you need to know about how Millennials are changing nonprofit marketing & fundraising.

The Internet Generation

The 2016 Global NGO Online Giving Report showed that more than any other generation, Millennials prefer to give online (72%).

This isn’t that surprising given that this generation grew up with the internet and their online lives have evolved as rapidly as the technology itself.

And while this is not yet the death knell of direct mail, it does suggest that direct mail may be, shall we say, in its fall season.

Millennials live in a connected world and in this world things happen fast, instantaneously.

And they don’t understand why anyone would want it any other way.

Why would anyone send something snail mail when they can just shoot an email? Why would anyone write a check when they can just click a few buttons on Paypal?

But, this isn’t really anything new. The Global NGO Online Giving report also showed 92% of NGOs worldwide have a website, 75% accept online donations, and 92% have a Facebook page.

Nonprofits have established their online presence and are trying to meet Millennials where they hang out, on the internet.

The Facebook Generation

The online giving report also found that millennials are the first generation to be more inspired to give by social media (43%) than email (21%).

While some might posit that this then must be the fall season for email, too. I would vehemently disagree.

It is and should be the death knell of the nonprofit e-newsletter. But email is an essential tool for communicating with Millennials. Nonprofits just need to learn how to use email differently.

You see, Millennials have different expectations of how email should be used and nonprofits simply haven’t adapted yet.

So what does this mean for nonprofit marketing and fundraising?

Well, it means you cannot afford to ignore social media. You simply must have a presence, at least in the most popular social media sites.

But it also means you should be using your social media accounts to provide content that inspires action.

Social media is not just to update people on where you are or what you are doing. It can be so much more powerful than that.

Powerful images – photos and videos – are driving engagement on social media.

Make sure you’re providing inspirational content and not just status updates. Click to Tweet


The Personal Brand Generation

The social life of Millennials is played out digitally as much as in person. But their digital life is amplified in a way that is very different from someone’s personal life.

A comment on someone’s Instagram photo, for example, is not the same things as someone commenting on a picture hanging on the wall of their bedroom, unless every one of their friends and family members, maybe even a few complete strangers, and, of course, business marketing professionals were all in the bedroom with them at the same time.

You see? Amplified.

And Millennials know this. They understand it deeply.

Why does this matter to nonprofit marketers?

Well, for Millennials, attaching themselves to your social media accounts is an amplified public statement. Everyone will know they have done it. It is a very public declaration of support.

And, therefore, it is a statement about who they are as a person.

More than ever before, Millennials are aware of their own personal brand.

Who they connect with, where they comment, and who they “Like” all contribute to their personal brand.  And if you want them to connect with you, then you have to align with their values.

Nonprofits need to understand the values and identity that Millennials wish to project about themselves. Then echo those values through their stories, actions, campaigns, and social media updates.

Note: Millennials are also the most diverse generation of Americans in the workforce. You still have to understand your target audience and align with their specific values.  Foundational nonprofit marketing principles still apply. There is no one-size-fits-all easy button.

The Social Proof Generation

Millennials are more heavily influenced by their peers than any other generation and they trust the social proof of peers over anything else.

If a Millennial finds that 30 of their friends follow your Instagram account, then they won’t hesitate to do the same. But, if they find that none of their friends follow you, they might hesitate.

This has series implications for nonprofit organizations, but there are actionable things you can do  to ensure your brand has social proof.

  • Keep your content fresh. Constantly provide new media for people to find and followers to engage with.
  • Always ask and reward people who follow, like, and comment on your social media accounts.
  • Make it easy for people to share your content by having social share buttons on your website and in your blog posts.
  • And find creative ways for people to promote and interact with your social media accounts.

#GivingTuesday is a great example of the latter, but you do not have to wait until November. You can and should do these types of social campaigns throughout the year.

But note, that it is not enough to ask people to interact with you on social media. You have to make it worth their while.

You need to be ready to give them positive reinforcement and immediate gratitude.

When done well, the rewards can be huge.

Engaging Millennials on social media is not only critical to keeping them as a member of your community of support, but it also encourages Millennials to spread the word about your organization.

Millennials are more eager than other generations to share their opinions with their social networks. Give Millennials a positive experience and you will lay the foundation for bringing in their friends.

Warning: They will share their opinion whether it is good or bad so make sure they feel appreciated and important.

The Engaged Generation

There is one more important way Millennials are changing nonprofit marketing and fundraising.

Millennials respond well when they have access and engagement with your organization.

They want to be able to communicate with you directly and they want to actively participate in your work.

They love being able to ask you questions anytime and anywhere.

They appreciate when you are interested in their opinions and experiences. And they get excited about your organization when you are responsive.

Now, of course, engagement has always been a foundation of good nonprofit marketing, but how this is done and the timing of the interactions has changed quite dramatically.

Millennials will reach out to you through email and multiple social media channels and the more quickly you respond the more they will appreciate your organization.

Encourage direct communication and dialogue on social media and with email. Direct communication and engagement with this generation is key to building a genuine relationship and garnering their long-term support.

A Generation of Support

Now that Millennials make up the majority of the workforce they will be an important part of nonprofit fundraising for decades.

Understanding what makes them tick and how best to engage them in support of your cause will ensure that this generation is good to you for years to come.

I hope this post helped you understand them a bit better and how they are changing nonprofit marketing and fundraising.

Don’t be intimidated. They are actually a very active generation, ready to support your cause in more ways than you’ve even considered.

And, now that they have such a strong presence in the workforce, ask your own Millennial employees how to engage their generation.  They’ll have lots of ideas.


  1. The foundational principles of nonprofit marketing still apply
  2. 72% of Millennials prefer to give online
  3. Social media and email inspire them to give
  4. Providing inspirational content and not just status updates
  5. Nonprofits needs to express the values and identity that Millennials wish to project about themselves
  6. Millennials heavily influenced by their peers
  7. Millennials are eager to share their opinions with their social networks
  8. Direct communication with this generation is key to building a genuine relationship and garnering their long-term support

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature



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