Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z: Strategies for Nonprofits
Effectively marketing to Millennials and Gen Z is rapidly becoming imperative for nonprofits seeking to sustain growth in donations.
However, traditional nonprofit marketing strategies often fail to resonate with these demographics. One-way messaging centered on broad organizational ambitions tends to be tuned out or viewed as inauthentic by younger audiences. Nonprofits must rethink their approaches to provide value that genuinely interests Millennial and Gen Z supporters.
This requires embracing radically transparent storytelling and showcasing incremental on-the-ground impact over polished narratives. It means meeting Millennials and Gen Z on the digital platforms where they already spend time, through channels like TikTok and influencer collaborations, versus relying solely on email and direct mail.
Nonprofits must also demonstrate a long-term commitment to social change that stands up to purpose-driven scrutiny. Younger generations have highly attuned detectors for performative activism and empty rhetoric. Consistently turning values into substantive action is required to earn trust and donations from the younger crowd.
With foresight and commitment to evolution, nonprofits can form meaningful connections that motivate the next generation to become loyal supporters of doing good.
And young people have already proven that they’re willing and able to start supporting noble causes like yours. Take a look at the stats below.
Millennials and Philanthropy
Philanthropic engagement is incredibly important to the Millennial generation. Research shows that 61% of Millennials report giving financially to charitable causes annually, on par with the older Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. But Millennials seek more hands-on, experiential philanthropy than just writing checks. They want to contribute time, skills, and advocacy to enact change. By embracing interactive and digitally connected philanthropy, organizations can make an impact while resonating with Millennial givers.
Gen Z and Philanthropy
Although young, Gen Z is highly passionate about philanthropy and social causes. Research shows that 51% of Gen Z reports giving financially to charitable organizations and churches. As Gen Z begins to enter the workforce, their earning potential and capacity for donations should increase with time. This generation seeks to give back through hands-on service – volunteering, mentoring, teaching skills, etc. Brands that empower this purpose-driven generation to create change will earn their loyalty and advocacy.
So it’s clear that the younger generation values nonprofits and brands that make a difference, and they’re willing to support those causes financially.
But how do you get Millennials and Gen Z to donate to your nonprofit? The first step is to think like they do.
Understanding the Millennial and Gen Z Mindset
To effectively market to Millennial and Gen Z audiences, nonprofits must first understand the prevailing mindsets and preferences of these generations. Their values and worldviews shape how they respond to marketing messages and initiatives. Key insights for connecting with these demographics include:
Both Millennials and Gen Z feel a strong sense of global citizenship and responsibility. Issues like climate change, human rights, and diversity resonate strongly. Brands must demonstrate a commitment to social impact to earn trust.
Millennials and Gen Z favor experiences and events over material goods. They crave participation and community. Marketing efforts should provide engaging brand interactions to keep the younger generation involved.
The younger generation has an instinctive “BS detector” and zero tolerance for overly manufactured messaging. They’ve spent more time being bombarded with advertising than any other generation. So, communications must feel organic, honest, and transparent about brand values, or they’ll see right through it.
Messages and imagery promoting inclusivity, empowerment, self-expression, and overcoming adversity resonate strongly with younger crowds. Representing diverse communities authentically is key.
Overall, successfully engaging Millennial and Gen Z consumers requires embracing vulnerability and purpose. Brands must be willing to take stands on issues and demonstrate legitimate commitment. Connections are built through shared passions and values, not top-down messaging.
The most effective campaigns spark meaningful conversations and advocacy among supporters. The goal is to create an emotional bond and welcome them into a compassionate community. Long-term loyalty is earned through walking the talk.
Purpose-driven brands and nonprofits have an opportunity to lead by example if they authentically embody their mission across all elements of the organization. Commitments to sustainability, inclusion, and social impact must drive strategy internally and externally. When brands live their ideals, Millennials and Gen Z become devoted brand ambassadors.
Digital First: Embracing Online Platforms
Millennials and Gen Z are digital natives who spend a massive amount of time-consuming content on social media and favoring the recommendations of influencers. Marketing to millennials isn’t easy, and marketing to Gen Z certainly isn’t any easier – but it’s not difficult to find them online.
To effectively engage them, brands must adopt a “digital first” mindset and diversify beyond traditional channels. Key digital strategies include:
Maintaining active, creative brand profiles on leading platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a requirement for an effective nonprofit marketing strategy.
Make sure to tailor your content and engagement style to fit each platform’s community. Interact authentically; don’t just broadcast generic messaging.
If you’re interested in learning more about social media marketing, take a look at this blog we posted about how nonprofits can leverage social media.
With over 70% of users being between ages 18 and 34, TikTok is a prime choice for reaching younger demographics. Organizations should consider testing out viral content formats like challenges and meme-inspired videos. Add value, whether it’s entertainment or education, over pure selling.
Leverage Instagram to vividly showcase your organization’s culture, values, and personality using Stories, Reels, and influencer collaborations. Seek to inspire the Instagram community rather than directly sell to them.
Instagram, more so than other social media platforms, provides an inside glimpse into your daily life so your followers can get to know you better. It shouldn’t be any different for a nonprofit. Give them a taste of what your organization is like behind the scenes.
Work with nonprofit influencers whose interests and values genuinely align with the brand. Support creators focused on ethics, empowerment, and social good. Collaborate on unique co-branded content that entertains and engages their community.
This is a hefty topic, so we put together a guide for how nonprofits can leverage influencers: check it out here.
Leverage digital advertising capabilities to serve highly targeted and personalized ads across platforms based on interests, causes, demographics, etc. Contextualize brand messages for the individual.
With mobile dominating the digital lives of Millennials and Gen Z, brands must optimize sites and apps for these devices. Simplify navigation, loading times, and conversions.
In summary, adopting a mobile-first, socially-savvy, influencer-inclusive approach allows brands to engage Millennial and Gen Z audiences through the digital channels where they spend the most time.
By embracing an authentic digital-first marketing strategy, nonprofit brands can forge strong connections with these generations.
If you need inspiration, subscribe to our Lab Report for weekly updates on our nonprofit marketing insights.
Storytelling: More Than Just Selling
When marketing to Millennials and Gen Z, you must move beyond traditional sales and marketing tactics. Instead, craft compelling narratives that tap into shared passions.
Put your organization’s values at the core of your messaging. Imagine waking up in a world where organizations openly share their genesis through genuine behind-the-scenes videos and educational content rather than “inspirational” speeches from someone you don’t know personally.
What if companies celebrated the communities served, not just the number of units sold? And nonprofits embraced vulnerability and transparency as signals of courage, not weakness?
This is the type of marketing that resonates with younger demographics. They’re experts at spotting disingenuous ads and cultural pandering. Your organization’s stories should convey real emotion and humility. Let audiences relate to the people and communities you serve. Share triumphs and tribulations on the path to driving change.
Evoke inspiration, don’t manufacture it.
And meet these audiences on their preferred platforms through their favorite voices. Turn supporters into brand ambassadors by co-creating experiences that entertain while educating.
Through your narrative, invite others to participate in something greater than themselves.
Purpose-driven storytelling succeeds when audiences eagerly amplify messages rather than passively observe. This builds an intimate connection rooted in shared ideals, not one-sided push marketing. Ensure your stories speak to the conscience, not just the consumer.
Marketing to Younger Generations with Engaging Content
To market to Millennial and Gen Z audiences, all organizations, especially nonprofits, must move beyond passive content and embrace creative interactivity. Simply broadcasting polished promotions often gets tuned out by the younger crowd. Instead, craft experiences that inspire participation, conversation, and organic sharing.
For inspiration, take a look at the suggestions below. But keep in mind that these are just examples – an effective content strategy might look different for your organization. When planning a marketing and impact strategy, you’ll have to dig deep into your organization’s values and core audiences to determine the type of content your audience will respond to the best.
Some formats to explore include:
Facebook and Instagram Live Events
Do live Q&As, tours of your headquarters, expert panels, or simply livestream any community events you have going on. Live events are more engaging than recorded content, and they might even lead to donations.
Polls and Quizzes
Prompt followers to respond to light-hearted polls or fun trivia quizzes related to your product or mission. This engages audiences with the brand.
Contests and Challenges
Launch contests for users to submit photos, videos, or stories on themes tied to your brand values. Or issue challenges related to your products. Reward creativity.
Give followers a glimpse “behind the curtain” into your company culture through live streams, office tours, employee takeovers, and other inside looks.
Incorporate gaming elements like points, levels, badges, and leaderboards into your digital experiences to motivate engagement. Make learning about your organization playful.
The goal is to create “click more” content vs set-it-and-forget-it posts. Stimulate audiences to actively expand their relationship with your brand by interacting, sharing reactions, and creating their own related content. Treat followers like creative collaborators vs passive eyeballs.
Monitor performance closely to see what content styles, topics, and formats drive the most vibrant community engagement and continually refine your approach based on data insights.
The nonprofits that flourish with younger demographics will be those who evolve beyond one-way content broadcasting and embrace multimedia experiences that authentically resonate and invite participation.
Transparency and Authenticity
Millennials and Gen Z demand radical transparency and authenticity from the brands and causes they support. But make sure you’re not pandering.
The younger generation is adept at detecting inauthentic messaging and performative activism.
So, in order to successfully market to Millennials and Gen Z, nonprofits must go beyond surface-level messaging to prove their authenticity.
Some strategies include:
- Directly speak to your audience about a current organizational need, or take them along as you deliver programs and events.
- Making leadership and governance transparent through open meetings, publicly accessible policies, financial disclosures, etc.
- Ensuring diversity is present in leadership and partnerships.
The key to marketing to Millennials and Gen Z is to move beyond carefully curated success stories and make your true day-to-day work tangible to digitally-savvy generations. Prioritizing transparency and progress over perfection demonstrates an authentic commitment to driving social change.
Millennials and Gen Z rally around causes they view as genuinely working to improve lives.
By pulling back the curtain to provide an unfiltered look at your nonprofit’s efforts – the good, the bad, and the real – you convey authenticity that builds trust and support.
Rather than making broad promises about ambitions, showcase incremental but actual impact. Highlight areas needing improvement and work transparently to address them.
For nonprofits, this shift towards openness and accountability might present growing pains, but it’s necessary to inspire the next generation of purpose-driven donors and volunteers. Meet Millennials and Gen Z where they are by letting them participate in the journey, not just the highlight reel.
Reaching Millennial and Gen Z audiences requires nonprofits to rethink traditional marketing strategies. One-way messaging centered on products falls flat with these generations seeking deeper purpose.
Forward-thinking organizations must demonstrate legitimate commitment to causes that align with the values of younger demographics. And they must convey that dedication through transparency and authentic content designed for digital channels.
This necessitates embracing vulnerability and progress over perfection. Show your brand’s authentic, human side through behind-the-scenes storytelling. Communicate with the unfiltered voice of employees, not executive speeches.
Meet Millennials and Gen Z where they already spend time – on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and platforms still emerging. Craft interactive content that informs and entertains while inspiring participation. Collaborate with influencers who authentically share your ideals.
Millennial and Gen Z supporters amplify what inspires them. Give them a purpose worth sharing.