By Jeff Kline


5 Ways Nonprofits Can Market to Millennials

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What if I told you there are 77 million people in this world who would jump at the opportunity to volunteer with your organization? And would commit to a monthly donation, even though they’re swimming in debt?

You may have heard them described as Facebook-addicts who expect instant gratification. But in reality, they are simply people who have had access to incredible technology their entire lives and are now using it to create positive change in the world. They are the next generation of business leaders and philanthropists.

These people are the Millennials, and they can be game-changers for your nonprofit. You just have to learn how to connect with them.

Happy Volunteer courtesy of Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Characteristics of Millennials

Millennials (or Generation Y) are generally defined as anyone born between 1979 and 1994. This puts their age range today at about 20-35 years old. Seeing as how they make up 24% of the U.S. population, there's a good chance you are a Millennial!

Millennials are a digital-savvy, social generation, made up of people who browse the Web with iPhones and use to connect with people who share their interests.

They’re also incredibly passionate about philanthropic causes.

If you're of an older generation, it's important to understand the technology this younger generation is using, and how it intersects with philanthropy. If you happen to be a Millennial, understanding how your generation as a whole interacts with nonprofits will give you new insights for marketing to them.

So, onto the question of the hour—how can your nonprofit better engage Millennials?

5 Ways Nonprofits Can Market To Millennials

The following data was collected from a study called The Millennial Impact Project.

1) Get mobile-friendly.

The majority of Millennials (83%) own a smartphone. The top ways they use their phones to interact with nonprofits are:

  • to read nonprofits’ emails
  • to follow nonprofits on Facebook
  • to read nonprofits’ articles

And here’s another statistic you can’t ignore—76% of Millennials said trying to navigate a non-mobile-friendly website is their biggest pet peeve.

  How to make your nonprofit accessible to mobile-savvy Millennials:

  • Update your website to a responsive design.
  • Invest in a responsive email template.
  • Be active on Facebook—post images and articles daily.


Crisis Assistance Ministry’s responsive design ensures that the site looks great and functions perfectly on all mobile devices.

Crisis Assistance Ministry responsive design


2) Create cause-oriented content.

Millennials care more about the cause than the organization. In other words, they care more about the hungry people you’re feeding than the award your executive director won. They want to know how they can contribute to your cause, so make sure your blog posts and social media updates tell them.

  How to stay cause-oriented:

  • Blog about the issue your organization is working to solve.
  • Teach readers how they can contribute to your cause.
  • Include strong calls-to-action when you share your cause-oriented content on social media.


This wonderful blog post by Invisible Children is cause-oriented because it informs readers of a new way to be philanthropic. The Facebook post includes a great call to action: “Shop with a purpose.”

Invisible Children Facebook Post


3) Show how their donations help.

The Millennial Impact Project reports that, “Millennials are most likely to donate to a nonprofit when they feel inspired by the organization (69%) and have specific examples of how their gifts will impact the organization’s work (49%).”

  How to demonstrate the impact of donations:

  • Share true stories of how recipients have benefitted from the work your nonprofit does. Personal testimonials and images can be very powerful. Check out this blog post by Doctors Without Borders—it’s a first-hand account of a doctor’s experience in Pakistan.
  • Show numbers. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has a page to demonstrate what $15, $20 and $100 will pay for.


What’s Up Dog! LA created a great infographic to show how donations are spent.

What's Up Dog? LA - Where do your donations go?

4) Offer micro-opportunities.

On average, Millennials are far from wealthy. But even though the majority of the gifts were $100 or less, nearly 83% of Millennials made a charitable donation in 2012. Even more impressive, 52% of Millennials said they would be interested in setting up a monthly recurring donation.

Millennials are willing to give their money and time, but they can only do it on a small scale. That's why you should offer micro-opportunities.

  How to offer micro-opportunities:

  • Ask for small monthly donations, rather than one large annual donation. It’s easier for Millennials to give $10 a month than to give $120 all at once.
  • Offer single-day volunteer opportunities (rather than long-term commitments)
  • Create “I just donated” or “I just volunteered” badges that people can share on Facebook. This will help spread awareness of your organization.
  • Create profile images and encourage people to use them on Facebook.
  • Create a Facebook Event that anyone can invite people to. Ask your followers in a status update to invite friends to the Event. 
  • Circulate a digital petition on Facebook.


A great example of a micro-opportunity is this petition created by ONE—it's a quick, free way for people to help out.

ONE petition shared on Facebook


5) Highlight networking opportunities.

In addition to a personal passion for a cause, Millennials are motivated to volunteer by the prospect of meeting new people who share their interests or could assist in advancing their careers. 

  How to position "volunteering" as a networking opportunity:

  • Use phrasing like “Join hundreds of young professionals” when you put out a call for volunteers.
  • Create a Facebook Event for your next volunteer opportunity. That way, they can see who was invited and who will be attending. (Added bonus: they can also invite their friends!)
  • Create a LinkedIn Group for announcing volunteer opportunities. This can be a great networking tool for Millennials.
  • Create a account for posting volunteer opportunities. 


Check out the charity: water Volunteers Meetup page for inspiration!


 charity: water Meetup page



Millennials are not to be ignored. They make up 24% of the U.S. population. They are passionate about philanthropy, and they are the most educated generation of our time. They are the future Warren Buffets, Bills Gates and Oprah Winfreys. 

By understanding how they think, what resonates with them, and what platforms they’re using, your nonprofit can build a strong support system of these Millennials. And trust me, they will be game-changers.


To learn more about Millennials, check out our sources:


Happy Volunteer image (cropped in lister view) courtesy of Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire (CC BY-SA 2.0)



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