4 minute read

Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? It was one of the most successful fundraising initiatives in recent years, with over $115 million raised (along with a boatload of increased awareness and positive public sentiment). It went viral before you could scream, “That’s freezing!” The driving force behind it: the millennials.

For a generation that’s often labeled selfish and egocentric, millennials are actually altruistic and passionate about causes they believe in. With the ALS ice bucket challenge in particular, they powered the social media machine that made the initiative go viral and generate unbelievable results.

Who are these mighty philanthropists? They’re the generation born between 1980 and 2000, so those currently 18–38. Smart nonprofits know that a young adult who becomes engaged today could contribute thousands of dollars over their lifetime. The question is, how do you not only attract this generation but get them to connect emotionally with your organization or cause? With this generation, that’s what it takes to get them onboard—a positive experience (and relationship) with your brand.

Here are five places to start.

  • Keep your online information fresh and updated. Your website, social media profiles and any other information that lives online must be periodically updated with relevant information—that’ll get you in good with both millennials and Google (search engines love new content). The younger millennials grew up using smartphones and tablets, and they are accustomed to a lifestyle where information is available 24/7; they don’t have much use for outdated websites that function like brochure sites.
  • Make everything mobile friendly. Another website must: It should be easily visible (and look great without pinching and zooming) to every visitor no matter where they are coming from—a mobile phone, a tablet or a desktop. This means it should have a responsive design that adjusts to whatever size screen the user is using to access your site. Mobile currently accounts for half of all global web pages served, and that number increases every year. Same goes for emails: Design them to look great on mobile as well as desktop. Achieve found that 65% of millennials receive emails from 1–5 nonprofit organizations. Make sure that your emails are easy to read on mobile, where over half of emails are being read these days.
  • Embrace social media. If you’re not already posting and tweeting—on more than just Facebook and Twitter (think Instagram and Snapchat)—it’s time. Millennials are fully into social networking, with about 90% of 18–29-year-olds using social networking sites. In fact, donors and volunteers of all ages are increasingly discovering causes via social media and mobile apps. But before you just start cutting and pasting your latest e-newsletter, think “shareable.” To maximize your efforts, post information that people will share with their networks. As the biggest users of social media, 75% of millennials like, share or comment on social media posts, which means if your content resonates with them, they’ll easily spread the word about your cause to their friends, family and colleagues.
  • Be authentic. Millennials are pretty marketing savvy—they know the difference between advertising and engagement, and they respond much better to the latter. This is a generation that has grown up fast-forwarding through commercials and ignoring print publications with traditional ads; they don’t want to be sold to, they want a genuine relationship. If you can create authentic conversations about your mission and get them emotionally involved with your cause, you’ll be more successful at turning them into supporters and constituents.
  • Provide unique ways to get involved. Many people equate philanthropy with volunteering at a food bank, serving at a soup kitchen or making an online donation. Those are great, but there’s so much more—and it’s your job to present the options because until you do, people don’t know they exist. Millennials grew up with community service as a norm. In fact, many of them were required to do community service while they were in high school, so a mindset of volunteerism is commonplace among this generation. You just need to communicate how your organization needs them. As willing as millennials are to provide financial support for causes they love, they’re just as eager to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. How can you maximize their passion and capacity to do good?

Most importantly: treat your millennial supporters like your other donors and volunteers. They may be younger, but they still want to be thanked, acknowledged and updated on the impact of their work and their donation.

If you’d like to be more proactive about engaging with this altruistic generation, there are a variety of ways Firespring can help—from developing a social media strategy to email marketing to creating a website that allows you to make updates with point-and-click simplicity. It’s true: Your website can be that simple to manage. Give it a try with a demo site.