4 Ways to Inspire Millennials to Reach For Your Cause

Many not-for-profits (NFPs) have begun to focus more robustly on accountability and transparency (for both ethical and legal reasons) as a way to attract and build a relationship with prospects and donors. After all, research has well-proven that donors give their money to a cause they trust will spend their hard-earned dollars wisely, and make a difference for that cause.

But accountability priorities seem to be more necessary than ever, according to a new article from The NonProfit Times1.

“Millennials value openness and transparency, so those must be present in your campaign,” said Caryn Stein, a marketing, content and communications strategist, at the National Development Conference event in National Harbor, Maryland. (Just as a note, I prefer to define the age band of this segment based on the approach of most research firms: born between 1981 – 2000.)

She continued that their donation habits are different than previous generations, as they prefer to perform smaller actions before fully committing to a cause. Though Stein was referring to the United States market, similar tendencies are clear in the Canadian context.

Why should you care about millennial attitudes and behaviours? Because millennials are now the biggest generation in the Canadian workforce. Meaning the biggest generation earning the current and future means to donate to the causes that reflect their ideals.

In Canada, Millennials represent 9.5M or 27% of the population, but 37% of the labour force population. There are many sub-segments within millennials but as a cohort, they are highly educated, especially the women, tech-driven, culturally diverse and hold firm values2. Some of those values may align with your cause …

Once upon a time (WAY back when I first started in the NFP sector), building a long-term donor relationship was about bi-annual acquisitions, well-planned, cultivation asks throughout the year and then an annual renewal, showing some impact to the donor along the way. For progressive NFPs, that model is ancient history.

Savvy NFPs must adapt their marketing approaches – acquisition and lifetime cultivation – to the immediacy, fluidity and demands of millennial mindsets and behaviours..

So what does that mean? Here are four simple adjustments that you can make, right now:

  • Instead of asking millennial segment(s) to commit to a monthly or recurring gift, offer them one-time, moderately-priced gift options with good impact but low perceived commitment.
  • Strongly connect your ‘tangible need’ ask with quick follow-up, post-gift. Show and tell specific, detailed impact information – show faces and places and be authentic! Be clear about the ‘dollars and cents’ of it, no B.S..
  • Make nurturing asks about more than just additional donations. Provide opportunities for different kinds of engagement to keep the millennial interested and invested in your cause. Petition campaigns, social network sharing (with a real reason to do so), opportunities to volunteer at an event or contribute to your blog. Provide a wide array of  choices that can appeal to a wide array of millennial supporters-types.
  • This final suggestion may surprise you but here it is … use all channels relevant in the millennial’s world including direct mail! Yes, this segment loves receiving … and responds to … direct mail. What’s old is new again and for this over-digitized generation, a well-targeted, relevant direct mail appeal can connect the digital and physical worlds in an obvious, tactile and memorable way.  And, it can provide the necessary real estate to truly convey impact stories to capture the millennial heart and mind.

I’m a huge fan of millennials, youth-hiring and especially youth-mentoring (see January 6 post for more). So the next time you’re in strategic and campaign-planning mode, please remember to ask yourself, how can we engage millennials in our cause? And how can we best show (not simply tell!) this particular audience how and why their generosity can truly create change.



1 The NonProfit Times

2 Statistics Canada, 2015