Not-for-profit marketing: increasing donations by engaging millennials


Headlines will tell you millennials (those born between 1980-2000) are the lazy, entitled, narcissistic “Generation Me”. But a long-term research study from US group The Millennial Impact Project has the numbers to contradict this.

Ninety-three per cent of millennials surveyed had given to charities in the last 12 months, while 61 per cent had given to three organisations or more. Forty-seven per cent said they would prefer to volunteer time, 16 per cent said they would give financial support, while 37 per cent prefer to give both time and money.

These numbers show that young people are not necessarily apathetic – they just approach activism differently. Millennials are cause-driven, tech-savvy, and their biggest asset is their social voice and influence. They’ve grown up with information at their (always connected) fingertips, meaning it’s customary that any and all of their questions are answered with authenticity and transparency.

As your future donor base, they are an audience that cannot be ignored, or expected to conform to “the way fundraising has always been done”. Aussie not-for-profits must step out and start meeting this audience halfway, engaging them in the way they want to be engaged with.

Here are five key ways you can start a dialogue with millennials:

1. Understand their motivations

Millennials are a culture defined by a deep desire to affect change and receive instant gratification for their efforts. They’ve been collectively tasked with dealing with complex problems unlike anything our economy, our country or our world has ever seen. This brings unique pressures upon their sense of identity, and many millennials are roused into action by reminders of this task at hand.

NFPs can start by taking the time to build a clear and true picture of millennials’ needs, fears, desires and frustrations. Use data, conversation analysis and research to lead this process, rather than letting your assumptions take over. (The most common mistake brands make when building a digital strategy is starting with what they want rather than what their audience wants!)

Compare your findings with the way you’re currently interacting and communicating with your younger donor base, the difference between the two will give you a clue as to what might need to change.

2. Craft a brand they’ll fall in love with

Your brand is a promise of value you make to your audience that is fortified every time you engage with them. Millennials are a very brand-loyal generation – accelerated by a new level of connection found through social media.

NFPs must craft a brand that is relatable, memorable and reflects your younger audience back to themselves, one that is community-minded rather than self-centered and internally-focussed. As digital natives, millennials will resonate with your desire to make positive changes in the world so build a brand which recruits them to join your cause as empowered participants.

Nine out of 10 millennials said the first information they would seek on a NFP’s website is their mission. Make sure yours is one they can see themselves supporting by anchoring your brand in a strong purpose and making them feel something with a simple and inspiring vision.

3. Speak their language

Millennials are used to having every morsel of information they could want served to them in a convenient and accessible manner through digital and connected technology.

Campaign For Australian Aid’s hugely successful Fairness Test campaign saw over 15,000 young people taking the action to personally email then treasurer Joe Hockey and express their dissatisfaction with his budget cuts to foreign aid.

Their simple and well-designed website invited millennials to interact with the campaign on a level that explained how the matter impacted them directly.


In 2016, Campaign for Australian Aid showed they’re no strangers to using culturally relevant and topical issues to create modern empathetic connections between their brand and consumers. On Australia Day they launched their Proudest 100 campaign – a nod to Triple J’s Hottest 100 – to shine a light on the 100 greatest Australian foreign aid achievements of 2015.

4. Give them a clear path to action

Digital natives desire immediacy. They make more impulsive decisions, and when inspired, they will act quickly provided that the opportunities are present and the barriers to entry are low.

Strong calls to action are a key motivator for attracting millennial visitors to your website. Your social media channels, search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) will be key to driving traffic for the ever-connected millennial.

Once they arrive on-site, don’t lose them. Make the donation process as simple as possible – it should take two clicks at most from homepage to thank you page. Although the need for a mobile-friendly experience is common knowledge amongst NFPs, not everyone is keeping up with the rapid increase in mobile-first browsing, so make sure your site is optimised for a mobile experience.

5. Focus on transforming fans into advocates

Your community is your most important asset in the digital age. With millennials, it’s not just about getting donors in the door, it’s about building a long-term relationship with them that keeps them engaged. Develop a strategy for transforming donors into advocates – people who can help you spread the good news – for free!

Cultivate a strong online community of advocates through community management of your social media pages, individually responding to questions, queries, feedback, praise and complaints. Be transparent and show you are willing to engage in a two-way dialogue with your users helps build trust and respect.

Your charity can make leaps and bounds in harnessing the giving potential of younger generations by operating at the intersection of technology, transparency and hands-on engagement.

If you want to get on the right track with a strong brand, a holistic digital strategy or a targeted donor engagement strategy, we’d love to help. Please get in touch!

This article was originally published on Pro Bono Australia.

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