Millennial donors Fundraising

3 ways to engage millennial donors

By Alex Quinn on May, 1 2019

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Alex Quinn

Alex heads up Customer Success at BrightGuest. She's passionate about helping nonprofits thrive, digital marketing, plus cats + ranch dressing.


Are millennial donors uninterested or are they not being engaged properly?

Millennials make up 26% of the U.S. population, making them the largest generation. Better yet, 84% of millennials give to charities. That’s HUGE! However, they only account for 11% of giving because their average donation size is $481 per year. Whereas Gen Xers give an average of $1,212 per year (source: The Next Generation of American Giving). Why is this? It’s not because millennials are a passive audience like some may say. 

It’s actually the opposite. We’ve seen millennials make some serious social impact in recent years; such as Jordan Somer, Jennifer Elizabeth Crone, Shane Feldman and so many more! Millennials are obsessed with innovation and progress, but they’re different than any other generation in history. They’re constantly on their mobile phones multitasking, while receiving thousands of messages a day. This makes them distracted and can led to frustration with your outreach strategies. Nonprofits need to adjust how they connect and engage with millennials to stand out and fully tap into the largest giving generation.

Here are 3 ways nonprofits can connect with and engage millennials to increase awareness and donations.


1. Text messaging

Millennials respond best to text messaging. They rarely use email and voice calls, especially when engaging with brands. Not saying you should throw email out of the mix altogether, but if you aren’t using text messaging in your communication strategy, it’s a channel to seriously consider.

In fact, it’s not just millennials—trends show that Gen X prefers text messaging as their primary communication channel. Then considering Gen Z has an average attention span of 8 seconds (compared to 12 seconds with millennials), you have to capture attention and fast! The easy and effective way to do it is where we all spend a majority of our time communicating—text messaging. Imagine if you could ensure that 90% of your audience sees your message in less than 3 minutes after you send it? Now imagine that over 50% of them take action by tapping through on a hyperlink in the message?!

We’ve seen our nonprofit customers raise 35% and higher PER PERSON using text messaging as their anchor point!

"A nonprofit can raise 35% or more PER PERSON using text messaging with a link to a mobile page to drive engagement" tco-logo tweet this

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to text messaging. There is immense potential to grow giving and text messaging is the answer, especially when it comes to connecting with millennials.

PRO TIP: Include a link to your landing page in the text message. Texting is great for grabbing attention, but it’s not enough to hold it. Get them out of the message bubble and into the browser where they can experience your mission and engage with your content. Our nonprofit customers see 50% or higher tap-thru rates on the link in their text messages. Compare that to email click-thru rates, which are around 2%, and you see how effective text messaging can be for activating your supporters.


2. Mobile, mobile, mobile

Now that you have their attention, what’s the best way to keep it? Through the same device they spend most of their time–their phone! Once you’ve connected with millennials through their most preferred channel (text messaging), keep the conversation going and take it into browser to continue telling your story. The majority of millennials donate through a nonprofit’s website. In addition to that, over 50% of all people visit a nonprofit’s website from a mobile device, so it’s imperative your website is optimized for mobile. And while a responsive website is incredibly important, also consider using focused landing pages to engage your audience instead of serving up your entire website. Driving traffic to your homepage vs. a landing page leads to more distractions and fewer conversions.

So if you’re looking to drive donations, engage with volunteers and tell your story, use a landing page and your likelihood to compel action will go way up.

PRO TIP: Don’t worry about making an app for your organization. Most people download zero new apps per month, and while apps serve a purpose, the most popular apps are still social media apps followed by gaming apps.


3. Personalization  

Mobile phone in hand pretty much all day = lots of messages. We’re all guilty of being on our phones too much and millennials are one of the highest consumers of screen time, with studies showing they spend more than 5 hours per day on their phone. This means generalized marketing messages don’t work on them, they expect content to be personalized.

What is personalization? It’s one of the trending digital practices where brands are aligning their content with each individual’s preferences and needs, aka right message at the right time across the right channel to the right person. It can sound a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be and most of it can be automated…while still being personalized. Brands that personalize their web experiences typically see a 20% increase in conversions. That can translate to a huge increase in donations for nonprofits.

So where do you start? First begin with segmenting your list of contacts. Look at demographics (ex. age, location) and where they are in your donor journey (ex. getting to know you, long-term donor). Identify a few personas for the different types of people you are reaching and determine who belongs to each persona. Then make sure you have relevant content for each persona. For example, if you want to reach out to millennials who haven’t yet donated to your organization, start with asking them to volunteer so they can see first-hand how your organization is unique and how their support contributes to your organization’s success. Showcase a video story from one of your volunteers about why they give their time to your organization and why their contribution matters. This will have a much bigger impact and increase the likelihood of creating lifelong supporters vs. sending the same “make a donation” message to everyone in your CRM.

PRO TIP: If you think about your experience with services like Netflix and Amazon, content is suggested based on your behavior over time. This personalization helps filter out noise and provides a better customer experience. Remember that your audiences are now accustomed to personalized experiences, and they expect it. To activate your millennial supporters, make sure the outreach channels you use automatically personalize your messaging and content to maximize their support.

Let's recap 

Millennials are on track to become the most generous generation in history! As it is now, more than 80% of millennials already give to charities. As their income increases over the next decade, the amount they donate is expected to increase as well. But the same old strategies that nonprofits have used to engage Gen Xers and Baby Boomers aren't going to work. Nonprofits need frictionless channels to capture attention and quickly compel action to stand out from the noise and build a relationship with millennial donors.

Use these suggestions as a starting point to connect and engage with millennials NOW and nurture those relationships to create lifelong supporters.


Curious about how to get started with text messaging and personalized outreach? Schedule a 1-on-1 call with our team and let’s start a convo!

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