How to connect with millennials

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In recent years, there has been some concern in the charity sector that the average donor is ageing. Charities of various sizes have struggled to attract younger supporters as well as they once did.

Why is this? Either younger generations are intrinsically less inclined to donate than their predecessors or charities aren’t adapting their marketing strategies to engage effectively with them.

Even though my knees have started going and I love a good pair of slippers, I am, perhaps surprisingly, young-ish. In marketing terms, I am a millennial – a member of Generation Y, I grew up with the Internet and can’t really comprehend how society functioned before computers existed. Like many of my peers, I’m quite fond of new methods of connecting with friends and probably spend more of my time online than I should. But am I intrinsically less inclined to donate than my predecessors? I don’t think I am (*waits for inbox to be flooded with donation spam*).

Of course, I can’t speak for a whole generation. Thankfully, a number of organisations have undertaken studies of my age group, and the behavioural patterns they have discovered will be the basis of this blog, rather than my own opinions, which would probably have been overly weighted towards slippers anyway.

How millennials support

While millennials are currently the least likely age group to donate, The Next Generation of UK Giving 2013 study showed that they are the most inclined to increase the time and money they give to good causes in the next year.

Generation Y is also the most engaged age group in terms of online participation, predominantly through sharing information, while also being the most likely to donate online by some distance.

How to connect

Millennial volunteers Mobile optimisation is essential

Millennials are more likely to share information about a cause itself than about a specific charity. Due to this, savvier PR and marketing agencies push content on the cause itself through charities, rather than pushing the charity then the work they do.

Aside from this, millennials are far more likely to access information on mobile devices than older generations, and content should be developed with this in mind. A whopping 80% of their emails are accessed on a mobile device, showing how important this is (this blog is full of good advice on mobile-optimised emails).

The main vehicle for connecting regularly with millennials is social media rather than a website, but still, 60% will visit a charity’s site before donating to them. The main complaint of charities by millennials is missing information on a website. In one survey, 76% of respondents complained about a lack of an easily visible ‘About Us’ section.

Millennials are actually more ready to share information than many charities at the moment. To remedy this, any content such as case studies, video, images, etc. should be accompanied by a sharing button. Doing this also allows you to immediately see how engaging your content is by counting the number of shares, which can help with your marketing strategy.

How to engage millennials

Millennial volunteers Millennials’ motivations to volunteer are similar those of previous generations

Millennials are the most likely age group to volunteer across the UK, and the motivations behind their involvement is largely the same as it has been for previous generations.

79% of millennial volunteers are motivated by passion for the cause, while 67% feel that they can make a difference through their participation. Bearing this in mind, it’s important to stress the direct results of any volunteering action on the cause.

After this, millennials are motivated to volunteer by the opportunity to engage with other like-minded people (56%) and the chance to gain expertise (46%). You can utilise this information by ensuring adverts for volunteers highlight peer involvement and training. It’s worth noting that online training is seen as an attractive alternative to face-to-face training, which has the added benefit of facilitating involvement in remoter areas.

How to encourage donations

Movember moustache‘Gamified’ campaigns like Movember have proved successful

Millennials are more likely to donate small amounts to a number of charities than older generations, who more commonly donate larger sums to fewer organisations. Stats suggest that 52% of millennials would be willing to donate monthly, giving small amounts regularly. According to the US-focused 2013 Millennial Impact Report, the way to increase the size of these donations is through regular contact.

Aside from this, gamified campaigns are significantly more likely to engage millennials than other forms of fundraising. Events like Race for Life, sponsored walks, or campaigns like Movember and Dryathalon allow young people to engage their networks through social media, spreading word of the event as well as drawing donations from friends and family.

Fundraising on millennials’ preferred channels (i.e. online, email and SMS, rather than telemarketing) vastly improves conversion rates. Since 2009, crowd-funding platform Fundly has raised $305m in online donations from young people alone, and its founder has put this down to the ease with which a donation can be made.

As the cause is the most important factor for young supporters, explaining what direct benefit a donation will have (i.e. £5 = a dog toy, £10 = a week of cat food, £25 = vaccinations) is a good idea.


The key piece of evidence showing why charities aren’t engaging with my generation is this – while millennials spend more time online and using digital channels of communication than any previous generation, charities have been shown to be the least digitally mature type of organisation of any in the UK.

To fix this discrepancy, charities need to utilise digital channels in a holistic way – build relationships by engaging with millennial supporters regularly; create new, shareable content to stay connected, and through this promote fundraising and volunteering opportunities.

Once you’re doing this, everything needs to link back to the cause. When discussing your charity, you should make the link between what you do and how your actions help very clear.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to do all of this. After all, the main social media platforms make it very easy to share your content on them. If you have a smartphone, there are a number of simple video-editing apps that you can get to create decent, short films. And millennials are happier than any other generation to share your information for you.

Failing that, just offer some free slippers and there’s a chance that I’ll donate.




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By Matt Moorut, Digital Marketing Executive


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