Reaching Millennials: How Nonprofits Can Stand Out Amidst the Noise

Everyone markets like a nonprofit nowadays. Ads for beverages, shoes, and cosmetics alike come touting high minded ideals of social progress. While companies of all sorts have starting implementing this tactic, they all share a target demographic: millennials.

Painting with a broad brush, millennials are idealists. Having grown up in an era of rapid and radical changes, they know how quickly even a few people can make a difference. This bodes well for nonprofits, which are some of the most organically ideal-driven advertisers out there. Seeing as millennials are currently the largest age group in the U.S., it’s crucial that nonprofits successfully gain millennials as lifelong donors for future sustainability.

In their study, “The New Face of Philanthropy: The Role of Intrinsic Motivation in Millennials’ Attitudes and Intent to Donate to Charitable Organizations,” researchers Gorczyca and Hartman attempt to identify millennials’ core values and apply those findings to nonprofit marketing efforts. While they examine millennial motivations within several different contexts, almost all of their findings come down to two main takeaways: Show millennials ways to make connections and take action.

There’s a reason it’s become increasingly common for college professors to push desks into a circle and start classroom discussions rather than lecturing to rows of students silently taking notes. The best way to get millennials to care is to get them actively involved within a group of their peers. Gorczyca and Hartman write, “Millennials tend to have a sharing attitude over a giving attitude when it comes to helping others. As a result, millennials seek engagement by sharing a part of themselves with another person to be impacted by that person in return.”

This has clear implications for the volunteer sector — it helps to get millennial volunteers involved in a group setting — but the principle can easily apply in terms of soliciting donations online. Crowdfunding services such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Patreon have found strong success among millennials because they are innately collaborative and extremely sharable. Social media is a prime outlet to share a campaign on one of these sites. And while it can be difficult to get through to millennials who see countless ads on their feeds each day, the personal touch of a friend sharing a cause on social media makes a post more likely to get through.

While brands all across the web are scrambling for millennials’ attention with memes and snarky Twitter replies, nonprofits have a unique advantage that helps them to stand out amongst the chaos. With many millennials already primed to take action for a cause they care about, nonprofits would benefit from making community and involvement a loud-and-clear message in their marketing campaigns. Millennial donors and volunteers can become some of your most passionate advocates — just show them the role they play in achieving your mission and sparking positive change.

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