Want a Younger Donor Base? Millennials Say Start with Your Website

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Ayan Ajeen and Marshéle Carter

The saying “The world is at your fingertips” is true now more than ever. With a few clicks on the keyboard, we instantly have access to a global audience. Questions are answered. Curiosities are provoked. Connections are made.

Trust Me

I’m one of the easily distracted, lazy, social media-crazed creatures known as millennials, and I’ll let you in on a secret. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report suggests that we are just as (if not more) generous as previous generations. You just have to know how to target your message to us.

Millennials are growing up in a digital world, and, if you want to reach us, nonprofit organizations need to be accessible. With our diminishing attention span and increasing reliance on online media, it’s vital that websites are in the best possible shape if worthy causes want to capture our eyes and hearts.

We rely on websites to be representative of your brand. We’re not going to stick around for long, so reel us in and seal the deal with your visually strategic and compelling website.

It takes only a few seconds for people to decide if they want what you’re selling. And, yes, even nonprofits are “selling” something. You are selling your call-to-action.  You want people to donate, volunteer or subscribe. So how do you get us millennials to do that?

Here are three tips to turn your website into a millennial hot spot:

First, show us the results.

Give us the punch line to make sure we stick around for the joke. Remember we have short attention spans.  We want you to tell us what you want from us; but, more importantly, what can we get from you? Start with that. If you want us to donate to your cause, instead of asking us, tell us what our donation will actually do.

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Here’s a good example: charity: water uses strong imagery to help people see the value and impact of their donation.

We are visual beings. We want to see what we’re buying. We want to see results. Show us what our donation will do.

Upload pictures of the homes that will be built as a result of our help, the child that will have dinner tonight because of our gift, or the rally we joined that started important conversations for your cause. 

Don’t be discouraged if you’re still relatively new to the nonprofit game. We don’t care about the name as much as we care about your results. If you show us what you can do, you can still win us over.

Second, we want stories.

We don’t want to sift through the information until we find what’s important. You can help us out by taking the fluff out of your website. Stories resonate with us. Share a real story about an individual that we’ve helped. A personal connection goes a long way.

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Pencils of Promise does a great job of using videos to tell stories and connect with the target audience.

Stories show us that the cause is genuine and that our efforts are making a difference. They allow you to talk about your mission and your accomplishments in a way that is both evocative and informative.

Make the donation button big and obvious, with a few suggested donation amounts. When you give incremented suggestions, donors end up giving more.  

Finally, go digital with your direct mail marketing!

Go mobile! Make sure your website is mobile-friendly for us. In the tech world, this is called “responsive.” Our parents and grandparents may still write checks and snail mail them back to you, but we millennials won’t. Make online giving quick and easy and watch your donor base grow.

And you definitely want to connect with us on social media. We’re digitally connected and we like to share information with others. We are a generous generation, especially when sharing is as easy as tagging someone.  

We monitor social media for new causes, so it’s a good idea to be on our radar. That will help us get more information about your important work, and that’s likely how we’ll brag about our involvement with you.

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Also, don’t forget about past contributors and donors. Keep us updated on how our money is being used. Send pictures of the progress. We like tangible evidence.

Charity: water does a great job of reminding donors how their money is being used and the impact it’s having. Follow-up emails can also be a way to show gratitude for support.

Encourage us to give monthly. Take advantage of the confirmation page after a donation. It’s the first page we’ll see after we’ve committed and given to your cause. If we’re willing to give, it’s a safe bet that we’re interested in hearing from you again.

A Recap for Reaching Millennials

  1. Don’t ask us for help. Show us how helping you will benefit us.
  2. Capture our attention with stories. Genuine connections inspire us to help you.
  3. Go mobile and connect with us on social media. Keep us updated on what’s happening with our donations. We want to see the tangible, visible results of our gifts to you.

Ayan Ajeen is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying Journalism and Public Policy. She has worked with The Life Center and The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as a communications intern. She plans to pursue a career in criminal justice reform as a civil rights attorney. ayan@live.unc.edu

Marshéle Carter is the founder and executive director of Carolina Cause Communications, a nonprofit, public relations agency that provides strategic communication counsel, campaigns and tools for nonprofit organizations that support North Carolina’s vulnerable populations.  marshele@carolinacause.com

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