3 Valuable Tips for a Successful Millennial Nonprofit Marketing Campaign

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“Adam Ruins Everything” is one of my favorite web series. The “CollegeHumor” original, hosted by Adam Conover, is a myth-busting show dedicated to ruining some of the most ingrained notions in our society, such as the stigma of talking about how much you get paid with coworkers or the real value of that diamond engagement ring (hint, it’s not much).

A marketing conference invited Conover to speak about effective marketing to millennials (a notion he found hilarious because of the idea that millennials are a tough market to crack).

His list of grievances about the concept of marketing to millennials basically boils down to this:

1. Generations are just a loose concept we as a society made up.

2. Millennials are no more narcissistic than previous generations were at their age (*ahem* greatest generation?)

3. Millennials don’t want to be talked down to in cynical tones about what it is they like or believe. They prefer to receive information without the spin.

Millennial marketing tips

Why did I bring Conover into this? Like Conover, I have a passion for dispelling myths and clearing up mysteries. I want to get to the heart of what Conover was attempting to explain: how to market to millennials. The truth is that millennials aren’t very different than their older counterparts. While some circumstances have changed, such as technology and culture, they are still just people.

Sooner rather than later, millennials will make up the majority of your marketing base and it’s important to know what you can do to bring in the most supporters.

Here are three valuable tips for a successful millennial nonprofit marketing campaign.

1. Embrace instant gratification

Sure, instant gratification is a dirty concept to some, but it is the reality we live in today. Everything is available at a moment’s notice, whether it’s food, entertainment, or feedback.

Your nonprofit has to embrace an instant gratification mentality if you hope to make a dent in the millennial market. Social media is the perfect place to give your millennial followers what they are looking for at a moment’s notice.

Charity:Water dedicates its efforts to bringing clean drinking water to developing nations. According to Brogan & Partners, Charity:Water was one of the first nonprofits to use Instagram to get their message out.

Each success is immediately broadcast on their Instagram at the rate of one update per day. This provides their millennial donors an understanding of what their support is worth in real time on a network they actively use (unlike phone calls and direct mail).

Charity:Water Instagram page

The more millennials know about your efforts and how far their donations have gone (or will go), the more engaged they will be and the sooner you can recruit them for more help. Every time you have a success, prepare a blog post, a video, an image, anything that will inform your millennial followers as soon as possible.

Instant gratification doesn’t just mean alerting your followers to what is going on. It also means answering their concerns quickly, getting to the point quickly about what your campaign is about, and providing them with lots of easy ways to give or get involved.

Another way to produce content quickly is to use easy-to-use graphic design programs such as Canva and Piktochart. These tools have built-in themes, colors, fonts, and simple mechanics to help put together images, infographics, and banners for your campaigns on short notice.

2. Keep up with the times (but don’t patronize your followers)

“Hey fam, you should like, totally donate to my lit cause!”

Whatever you do, don’t be that nonprofit.

It’s important to keep up with the times, as you are by reading this article and assessing your millennial nonprofit marketing campaigns. But that doesn’t mean you have to patronize your millennial followers by speaking to them the way you think they speak to each other.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many millennials who use the words “lit” and “fam” unless they are doing so ironically. If ironic humor is your strong suit, then you may see success, like the Twitter account for Arby’s. Otherwise, steer clear of modern slang.

Instead, keeping up with the times means staying up-to-date with current trends, such as new campaigns to co-opt and contribute to. A perfect example of this is the ice bucket challenge that raised money to find a cure for ALS. Paying attention to trends like these not only opens up the perfect opportunity for your nonprofit to reach new groups of people with the cause, but also provides inspirations for your next campaign.

Another example would be relevant social issue holidays such as International Women’s Day. Getting involved in causes such as these show that your organization is aware of today’s social climate. They can also broaden your reach to groups that may otherwise not get involved with your organization.

Market out on these days or capitalize on these trends by preparing relevant content such as blog posts and social media campaigns, explaining how your organization will help with these hot button issues.

3. Make your followers the decision-makers

Millennials love to get involved, even if they don’t have money to give. Studies have shown that millennials work for purpose, not for a paycheck and this mindset doesn’t just apply in the workplace, but in their personal affairs as well.

What better way to involve your millennial followers than to hand the reins over to them every once in awhile?

What I mean by that is to occasionally ask them to contribute their thoughts on where your nonprofit ought to focus next. You could create a video challenge for your followers to make their case as to why you should expand your project to an area they care about.

By asking your followers what you ought to do or where you ought to go, you make them feel invested in the cause.

There are plenty of survey software options out there, such as SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo, that give your followers the ability to submit their input.

Use these tools to seek feedback from your followers and you may end up with new project idea you never would’ve thought of otherwise.

Other fundraising lessons and ideas

What has your experience marketing to millennials been like? What have you noticed worked best with them? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below!

Nonprofit marketing doesn’t stop at millennials, because no matter what you believe, it’s not all about us (or is it?) There is plenty more to learn in the field of nonprofit marketing and the Capterra nonprofit blog is full of posts to help you:

Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.

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About the Author


Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a former Capterra analyst.



Great article Nick. Lots of good examples – especially Canva. Love recommending it to our followers as an easy tool to get your association marketing off the ground.

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