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Quick Guide to Nonprofit Millennial Engagement

Nonprofit millennial engagement is important for a number of reasons.  

Not only do millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) make up a sizable segment of the overall population, but 11% of charitable giving throughout the U.S. currently comes from this group!    

By developing a better understanding of millennial behavior, you’ll be able to engage with them more effectively.

Understanding Millennial Engagement  

Data on millennial behavior has shown that many are passionate about social impact and want to see positive improvements.  

Much of this is rooted in social media, as this group, in particular, relies heavily on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels to garner and share information.   

Millennials, for the most part, are suspicious of organizations.  So in order to gain their trust, this group needs to be shown the actual impact of what an organization does.  

Millennials are not going to donate to an organization, but they will donate to a cause that resonates with them and that shows impact through an organization.  

In other words, they won’t donate because your nonprofit has needs, but because your nonprofit meets the needs of others!

Millennials and the Experience Economy

Millennials are part of what’s being called the “experience economy” opposed to the materialistic economy of past generations.

Because of this, more of them are wired to work in teams and help out in ways that leverage their social capital, such as participating in group fundraising and volunteer efforts.

Most are also looking for intellectual engagement rather than busy work with volunteering, so being able to utilize their own social networks or hold youth leadership or ambassador positions on a board is what will most appeal to them.

Once you get people from this group to volunteer, you’re in luck!  Recent data shows that the average volunteer is 4 times more likely to donate to that organization and when they do, it’s 10 times more than average!

Engaging Millennials on Social Media

Because intellectual engagement is so important to this group, their motivation to be involved with an organization or effort often stems from fear of missing out (FOMO) or the joy of being in (JOBI).  

They’re more likely to share a post on Facebook about an event they’re a part of while it’s happening to show others that they’re doing it.  This, in turn, can inspire those within their social circles to join in the fun!      

 The ladder of engagement:  They “like” you on Facebook > they volunteer and/or donate to your campaign > they share their involvement with your campaign on social media.

Try using Facebook Connect to show social proof of an event:  People are 3x more likely to attend an event if they see that a friend is attending.  You should also make sharing options available to those who buy tickets for your events, so you could double your fundraising effectiveness.  

When to post to social media:

Follow the Burrito Principle, which recommends posting during someone’s potential downtime (i.e., when eating a burrito)… 

  • Post in the mornings between 8 and 9 a.m.
  • Post during lunch, from 12-1 p.m.
  • Post at the end of the day between 4:30 and 6 p.m.
  • Post at night, from 9:30 – 11 p.m.

Email is a different story, however!  Generally speaking, you shouldn’t email people on Monday morning.  Try for Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

How to post on social media:

Keep your posts short, simple and engaging.  Be a content curator, by being selective about what you choose to represent your organization.  At least half of your posts should NOT be about your organization.  Rather, you should focus on the issues you represent.   This way, you’ll be the organization people think of when they think of an issue or cause. 


  • Optimal post length is 80 characters
  • Frequency should be at least 1/week and no more than 3/day
  • Posts with pictures perform 2X better than those without
  • Posts with videos get 4X the engagement
  • Ask questions to spur conversations and double your engagement


  • Optimal post length is 130 characters
  • Frequency should be at least once per day to infinity!!!!
  • Posts with pictures perform 18X better than those without
  • Posting ”Please retweet” actually works!
  • Consider using a Twitter wall for events, like Twitterfall 

In general, fundraising projects with a video see an 800% increase in funding!  

Treat Mobile as a Necessity Not an Option

This point has been made many times over, but it’s only going to become increasingly true in the coming years:  To reach every potential supporter, mobile is the first place to look to increase your engagement.   

Mobile email, for instance, will account for 15-70% of email opens.  So if someone opens an email appeal from their phone, but they can’t get to your website or donation page from that email, you just missed out on a potential donation!  

Find a Need and Fill it

Again, millennials want to see the impact!!  Be very clear about the impact of the fundraising event and break down what a particular amount of money can do.  Try using donation tiers:  

Millennial EngagementAs a nonprofit organization, you should be marketing yourself as a conduit that exposes the needs of others, collects resources to alleviate those needs, and then transfers those resources back to those who need it.

Anything that strays from this general theme could dilute your message and reduce its impact and ability to bring in more supporters.  For successful millennial engagement, try adopting the following philosophy:  

People don’t give to you, they give through you.

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