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7 Things You Must Do to Acquire and Retain Younger Donors

When it comes to acquiring and retaining donors, it’s somewhat surprising that so many nonprofits seem to disregard younger audiences. Many times, organizations cling to the perception that because these individuals are younger and have less money, their contributions aren’t worth the time and investment. But for those organizations who have taken the time to invest in this Millennial generation, the rewards are often quite impressive.

Acquire Young Donors Mobile

An Investment In Your Nonprofit’s Future

Just think: when the most recent recession hit in 2008, many people lost significant portions of their savings in a matter of weeks. For a large number of those that fall into the categories of Baby Boomers and Generation X, this was almost a deathblow to their retirement funds. But fortunately for Millennials, they still have decades to regain what they may have lost.

So while investing in short-term, immediate donations remains important, as the Millennials continue to build their wealth over time, it’s important to develop a long-lasting and continuous relationship with them.

To do this successfully, however, you can’t just simply redirect your current messages. If you want to succeed in this 18-30 demographic, here are six absolutely essential practices you’ll need to adopt:

  1. Use responsive web design.
  2. Incorporate mobile and online payments. 
  3. Utilize video.
  4. Encourage volunteering. 
  5. Build an active social media presence. 
  6. Host unique, fun events. 
  7. Offer value. 

Let's dive right into the first step!

1. Responsive Web Design

You have a website? Good. Is it optimized for multiple platforms? If your site hasn’t been updated for a few years, it probably isn’t. And that’s a potentially fatal mistake when it comes to donor acquisition among younger audiences. In 2013, mobile devices accounted for over 30% off all web traffic worldwide. The vast majority of that browsing was conducted by Millennials. If you’re trying to target this demographic, one of the first things a Millennial will do is visit your website or search for you on Google or Bing, and if they’re among the nearly 70% of American Millennials with a smartphone, odds are good that they’ll do so on a mobile device. And while first impressions may not always be everything, they are incredibly important, especially among this generation. If a young adult can’t easily navigate your website on the go, you’ll probably lose their interest. Make sure your website uses Responsive Web Design (RWD).

2. Incorporate Mobile & Online Payments

As important as being able to navigate your website easily across platforms may be, being able to donate online, via text message, or through an application is even more essential. To most Millennials, mailing donations is absolutely archaic, and carrying a checkbook is a thing of the past. If you want to maximize your fundraising capabilities, especially among young adults, adding the capability to safely and securely accept credit and debit cards, PayPal, and other online merchant services is a must.

3. Utilize Video

Yes, video. It may not be the first thing you think of, but young audiences love to have something to view. Just look at the popularity of websites like YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, Twitch and Netflix: millions of regular users, most of them under the age of 30. Next time you host an event, throw a charity dinner, or bring in a keynote speaker, try recording or live-streaming it, and post a short excerpt to your website. It’s fairly simple to do if your site uses RWD, and it will allow new donors to literally see what your organization does, and even offer your current constituents the ability to relive an event, or participate remotely.

4. Encourage Volunteering

Let's face: younger supporters don't have as much disposable income to contribute, but that doesn't mean they can't support your cause. Volunteering is a great way for organizations to get younger supporters involved in your mission and start cultivating relationships. When younger supporters volunteer, they'll be able to see your nonprofit in action, connect with your staff, and grow passionate about your cause. By engaging them now as volunteers, you can establish lasting relationship, so when they're ready to give you'll be their first choice. Learn how you can manage your volunteer efforts with nonprofit software.

5. Build an Active Social Media Presence

If there’s anything that young people love more than the Internet, it’d probably be social media. Last year, almost 90% of people between the ages of 18-29 used websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. If your organization isn’t actively participating on social media sites on a regular basis, you’re missing out on another huge opportunity to connect with potential donors. This is the prime location to develop and maintain long-lasting relationships with your donors and community, so don’t neglect it.

Salsa Case Study - Environmental Working Group

6. Host Unique, Fun Events

Millennials seem to be an untapped resource when it comes to fundraising efforts. The value they can bring to an organization is often times overlooked, sacrificing countless potential donations. 

In the recent study, “The Millennial Impact Report,” research shows that 72% of people aged 20-30 are interested in participating in a nonprofit young professional group.

The desire to contribute is existent; the question becomes how can an organization harness this interest.

When organizing an event, here are some key factors to keep in mind to help engage the Millennial generation:

Millennials are not donors

This is true in the sense that Millennials will not be the demographic contributing a significant monetary donation to an event.

They can be, however, your biggest fundraisers.

This fundraising comes from an ability to utilize social media to stretch their networks and engage their community with the cause they are working for. The vastness of these networks is an asset that should not be underestimated.

Autonomy is key

A little bit of control goes a long way. Letting younger participants take the reigns of certain aspects of an event can help make them feel more connected to your cause.

Effectively delegating tasks will allow Millennials take ownership of an event, making it more important to them personally.

Work towards retention

One danger many organizations are facing is Millennial loyalty.

A major drawback to this generation’s presence on social media is that it provides the capability to constantly search for a next best offer. One way to avoid this is by keeping their participation in an event extremely interactive.

By making their role not only fun but also rewarding, you are actively working towards keeping them excited and motivated.

Incentive for attendance

Looking for a younger crowd to attend an event?

The answer can be easier than you think. By simply promising free food, tee shirts, or any sort of give-a-way, you can almost insure to get the attention of a younger group.

The majority of Millennials are still in college or paying off student loans, so some simple extrinsic motivation can go a long way towards drumming up excitement for an upcoming event.

Additionally, offering incentives is a great lead-in to giving.

Not only can “free stuff” encourage young people to show up to events, the promise of a free t-shirt or a water bottle after making a small donation can be enough to get millennials to give a few bucks to your nonprofit’s cause.

Keep it visually interesting

This generation was one that was raised technologically savvy and knowledgable. A simple run-of-the mill online presence is detrimental to gaining a Millennial following.

Content and visuals should be original and engaging in order to acquire their attention. Remember that these factors are crucial towards a Millennial assessing your organization’s legitimacy. 

Sometimes, the best way to grow relationships and improve goodwill is to simply have fun. So do that! Charity dinners and 5K events are fantastic, but they’re common, and rarely differ drastically between organizations and causes. If you want to start a number of new relationships, and bring in a lot of donations, think outside of the box. Try hosting a Color Run, sponsor an Open-Mic Night, or throw a multi-faceted “THON” event. If you’re really adventurous, try taking some inspiration from a few cool events we highlighted earlier this month. Doing something more involved may require more planning and work than some of your other events, but doing so might just pay off big for your cause.

7. Offer Value

 Recently, we have been seeing an increasing trend in younger donors being more generous and likely to participate and help causes that they feel are worthy of their individual donations. That’s right, causes. Not organizations. If you want to capture the attention of the younger generation, make sure that you’re properly marketing and communicating the importance of your cause, and what value and benefit their participation will bring to it, rather than focusing the emphasis on what your organization does to accomplish it.


Attracting and retaining Millennial donors can be very beneficial for your organization. Using these six tips, you'll be much closer to reaching your goals and encouraging this group of supporters to stick around.

To learn more about retaining donors check out these additional resources:  

  • Donor Acquisition Process: 14 Best Practices. Nonprofits of all shapes and sizes understand the challenge of gaining new donors. This article gives you 14 essential tips to help improve your donor acquisition.
  • Regain Lapsed Donors in 7 Steps. Let's face it: sometimes donors fall through the cracks and it can be difficult getting a donor to give when they haven't supported your cause in over a year. With these tips, you can regain donors and build stronger relationships in the process. 
  • Donor Database Software. The key to keeping up with donors and building long-lasting relationships starts with having an efficient donor management system. Learn about the features you need to stay on top of donor engagement.

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Topics: Fundraising