How to Attract Millennial  Donors and Young Philanthropists to your Nonprofit


The word “millennial” is one of the to most used (and perhaps overused) terms of the past decade. Despite the popular narrative that the millennial generation is “lazy,” “entitled,” and “self-absorbed,” or that they are unable to purchase homes due to an affinity for avocado toast, marketers in every space are desperately trying to target them.

As it turns out, targeting millennials is more difficult than most might imagine. Millennials are fickle. As The Guardian pointed out in 2016, “millennials work to live rather than live to work.” We are looking at a generation driven by the desire to integrate work and life as opposed to the previous generation’s obsession with achieving a balance between the two. Millennials will sacrifice pay and security if employment conflicts with their beliefs.

About half of millennials globally have shunned work, and even potential employers, that conflict with their beliefs.” Deloitte’s Millennial Survey

They are particular in their interests, concerns, and lifestyle. According to the United States Census Bureau, millennials outnumber baby boomers, representing more than one-quarter of the United States’ total population, and they are far more diverse: 44.2 percent of millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group.

As a result, the millennial generation has emerged as a dominant force in the marketplace, driving both the present and future of every industry.

Last month, we highlighted the need for nonprofits and businesses to target emerging donor markets, specifically the US Hispanic market. Millennial donors are equally important, but are in general, overlooked within the nonprofit space.

Every business is asking the same question: how do we attract and convert the millennial audience? Nonprofits should ask the same.

Millennials are Generous and Eager to Donate to Nonprofit Organizations

“One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.” Lee Buchanan, Editor at Large, Inc. Magazine

In contrast to the self-centered stereotype baby boomers (and some millennials) have regarding this generation of digital natives, millennials are known to be generous givers when it comes to nonprofit organizations. They build bridges across generational borders and have the potential to breathe new life into the work of the nonprofit sector.

Despite the odds stacked against them (this is the first cohort to earn less than their parents), they have built a connected global community and promote experimentation, the freedom to explore ideas, and, most importantly, they embrace the possibility of failure. This is a generation eager to experiment, fail, brush themselves off, and start over. It is because of this millennials will find success in solving the world’s problems, where previous generations have been unable.

And again, millennials are generous. They are the crowd-funding generation, accustomed to digital philanthropy with the goal of enacting change, for less. Nonprofits must turn their attention and marketing efforts toward these budding philanthropists and use their skills to create a broader, more effective reach.

“In 2014, 84 percent of millennial employees gave to a charitable cause, according to the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report: 2015. Sure, boomers and Gen Xers are giving more in terms of dollars ($732 and $1,212 per year, respectively), but at an average of $481 given each year, millennials are quickly gaining influence over the philanthropic space.” Justin Wheeler for Forbes

How Should Nonprofits Target the Millennial Audience?

It’s not that nonprofits haven’t tried to attract a millennial audience; it is that they haven’t found the sweet spot. Cracking the mysterious millennial mindset is difficult. Part of the issue lies in the generalization of millennials as one large group when in fact they are far from a homogenous demographic. According to the Boston Consulting Group, six distinct segments exist within this population.

Nonprofits are going to fail in their efforts to attract millennial donors if they continue to treat this group as a uniform demographic. To succeed, they must identify a target audience within the broader population of millennials and reach them with the right message, at the correct time, using the best platform. Creating an omnichannel marketing strategy, informed by analytics, allows nonprofits to determine the best channel to target their preferred millennial subset.

To Attract Millennials, Use Social Media & Direct Response

Millennials consume traditional television less than their older counterparts, but they spend a ton of time-consuming digital media both online and through social platforms. An expertly crafted direct response campaign that leverages video on digital platforms and social media to inspire a call is highly effective for nonprofits (and businesses) interested in marketing to millennials. The potent mixture of DR and social media works because it allows nonprofits to meet this generation on their preferred platforms. These consumers expect to benefit from following and engaging with brands on social media, and direct response marketing fills this need by encouraging them to take advantage of unique opportunities.

An attractive component of direct response is its ability to provide relevant data in real-time, encouraging actions that can be measured directly, allowing nonprofits to track conversions and quickly determine the effectiveness of their messaging. On social media, creating campaign-specific hashtags can also be an effective tactic to observe the efficacy of a campaign’s message and reach.

Partner with a Skilled and Optimized Call Center for a Successful Campaign 

Even the best direct response campaign will suffer if your call center is unable to make a connection. Interacting with millennial callers takes skill and finesse; remember, this is a discerning generation with particular interests. If the experience you are providing at any point isn’t unique or engaging, your campaign will not succeed. And, you won’t have a second chance. Most millennials will turn their back on your nonprofit after just one poor customer experience.

Contact centers must deliver a seamless and positive experience with every call. It’s that simple. To do so, however, your contact center must be specially trained to tackle giving campaigns and to interact with a millennial audience. If you succeed in all aspects of your campaign, from the digital and social layer through to a call, millennials can be your most reliable ally, and they are willing to share a positive experience within social networks, making direct response a potent tool.

Contact ListenTrust for your Next Millennial-Focused Marketing Campaign

Nonprofits willing to invest the time and effort necessary to identify and market to the right group of millennials will be handsomely rewarded. ListenTrust has an experienced and dedicated team of experts ready to tackle your millennial-focused campaign. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

For more information, contact Tom Sheppard, VP Business Development, at: