5 MARKETING ESSENTIALS FOR NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS (FROM A MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVE)

Woman holds sign, "We Need You Donate" Food BankWoman holds sign, "We Need You Donate" Food Bank
Man at computer digital marketing
Cell Phone Cat Picture
Woman hands across heart
Computer screen shows "donate"

With an increasing number of 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US (McKeever, 2018), how do you show your audience that your cause and your organization is one that’s worth a contribution?

Anyone with any sort of a marketing background is probably thinking right now that I’m about to rattle off the typical “Appeal to your target market!” or “Use social media!” tips that you’ve all heard before, but as a millennial, my goal is to provide some insight about my generation. After all, we are the largest age group in US and world history, the largest, most influential consumer segment, and are “set to shape the direction of the world’s economy in the years ahead,” (Tilford, 2018). In other words, it’s important that marketing appeals to us.

1. GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS

Even when purchasing products for personal use, consumers want to feel connected to the people and organizations to which they give their money to. This is even more so the case for donations. Voluntarily handing over a chunk of hard-earned income, and never seeing where exactly it goes, is not an easy choice for consumers to make. Add in the ginormous pool of options, and you can see how difficult it is, from a marketing perspective, for nonprofits to stand out.
Creating genuine relationships with supporters is a fantastic place to start. Saying “Thank You” to donors is a vital part of this, but it should go far beyond that. A recent survey showed that 60% of donors want impact stories showing that their donation has made a difference, and 46% prefer a personalized letter in the mail as well (Finch, 2017).

Remember though, it’s all about building relationships, so consistency is key. Millennials have been found to “require” communication and feedback from organizations they’re involved with (Armaly, 2018), so to do this effectively and conveniently, it’s a good idea for any organization to have automated and segmented messaging systems.

2. DIGITAL MARKETING, DUH

This might seem like a painfully obvious recommendation, but a lot of major organizations don’t take full advantage of it. When it comes to sharing your story, there’s now an overabundance of digital resources available.
As I mentioned, messaging marketing is especially important for nonprofits. As one of the most successful digital marketing practices, it averages $40 of revenue for every $1 spent (Olson, 2013). While email has led the way in terms of revenue, text messaging is a good idea to add to the mix, especially for reaching millennials. Texts are almost always opened, as open-rates are often over 90% (SimpleTexting, n.d.).
When it comes to online marketing, Google for Nonprofits provides an exceptional collection of tools. It’s free for qualifying nonprofits and includes programs such as Google Ad Grants ($10,000/month for Google Search ads), Google One Today (helps with fundraising), and Google Earth Outreach (uses location data and maps to help supporters find you and vice versa).

It is crucial for nonprofit organizations to utilize social media. Be active on every platform that data shows are relevant to your target market. The more content you share, the better brand recognition you will have and the more your mission will be heard and understood. A major shift is occurring towards social media with newer generations; younger people not only prefer to view content via social media, but they also use it for product research (An, 2018). DM me on Instagram for more details about this one.

3. KEEP IT CURRENT & RELATABLE

One excellent tactic is to market through social media influencers. Influencer marketing content delivers “11x higher ROI than traditional forms of advertising” and “earns more than 8x the engagement rate,” (SimpleTexting, n.d.). People identify with causes and organizations when they’re associated with current events and influential individuals that they trust.

Overall, the most critical aspect of an organization, in terms of relatability, is their branding. Your brand is the face and personality of your organization, crucial for first impressions and long-term relationships. While this might seem obvious, it’s something that not all organizations fully embrace. All content should embody your brand, including your website’s donation page. On average, this boosts gift donations by 5x and accumulates $15,000 more in profit than generic donation pages (Chung, 2018).

4. MAKE EM’ FEEL IT

Think about how many times you’ve started choking up when the “Arms of an Angel” commercial with the sad abused puppies came on TV. That two-minute video made my heart physically ache, every time, and I know that if ten-year-old me were to have had any disposable income, she most definitely would’ve called and given it all to those poor pups immediately.

My point is, video content is extremely powerful. Relative to other forms of content, videos are the best for capturing attention (An, 2018). Platforms such as YouTube Impact Lab exist specifically to help “impact creators” spread awareness about social movements.
Visual content, in general, is the most effective way to provide a true understanding of your mission and impact. Whether it’s photos or videos of staff, volunteers, those impacted by your work, or infographics demonstrating progress, visually broadcasting your work allows supporters to recognize your passion and inspires them to join you.

5. MAKE IT EASY TO DONATE

The number-one thing millennials are known for in terms of consumer behavior is our need for convenience. Older generations don’t revolve their decision-making as dependently around it, but everyone likes when things are quick and easy, right?

Your donation page should be clear and simple, and have a big fat donation button, right in plain sight. (Apply for a “Donate Now” button on your Facebook page if you haven’t already.) Asking users to take more than a couple of minutes to figure out what exactly they’re donating to and how exactly to do it is asking for them to click right back off your page. Your donation page and all of your content should also be mobile-friendly. Many people, especially millennials, are now “mobile-first” internet users (An, 2018) – using their phones for just about everything – so it’s extremely important to allow them the same level of convenience as you offer via computers.

The manner in which nonprofits communicate and present their cause is more important now than ever. Consumer behavior is evolving, which means marketing must evolve with it, and I believe these strategies are among the crucial considerations that nonprofits – and all organizations – must consider if they want to keep up.

About the Author:

Lanie Gruemmer is a student at University of Denver.

Works Cited:

An, M. (2018, December 14). Content Trends: Preferences Emerge Along Generational Fault Lines. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://blog.hubspot.com/news-trends/content-trends-preferences?_ga=2.42126629.1065950548.1519248995-752476956.1510949186#video

Armaly, P. (2018, May 14). Millennials Are Taking Over, And It’s All Right. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://blogs.oracle.com/marketingcloud/millennials-are-taking-over-and-its-all-right

Chung, E. (2018, January 25). 10 Marketing Lessons for All Nonprofits. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://www.classy.org/blog/10-marketing-lessons-for-all-nonprofits/

Finch, J. (2017, April 27). How to Turn One-Time Donors Into Repeat Donors. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/how-to-create-repeat-donors/

McKeever, B. (2018, December 13). The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2018. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://nccs.urban.org/publication/nonprofit-sector-brief-2018#the-nonprofit-sector-in-brief-2018-public-charites-giving-and-volunteering

Olson, C. (2013, January 09). Email Marketing Equals Dollar Signs. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://marketingland.com/email-marketing-equals-dollar-signs-30168

SimpleTexting. (n.d.). 7 Proven Marketing Tips for Nonprofits in 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://simpletexting.com/nonprofit-marketing-tips/

Tilford, C. (2018, June 06). The Millennial Moment – In Charts. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://www.ft.com/content/f81ac17a-68ae-11e8-b6eb-4acfcfb08c11

Brinton Taylor
btaylor5@gmail.com