The legitimate non-profit trends that Millennials are a part of, but don’t define

Yes, it’s a long title, but I promised nuance.

The most compelling part of the case for Millennials focus is time.  Existing donors are aging to a point when for various reasons they are no longer able to give.  I’ve argued this isn’t a Millennial thing, except insofar as they are the more extreme (so far) leaders of some important trends in nonprofit marketing.  The big ones:

Addressable media.  I remember when I saw my first cost-per-click advertising campaign.  The heavens opened and a choir of angels came down and sang “Behold! You shall not pay to advertise to nonresponders ever again!”

Time may have caused me to exaggerate this slightly, but there simply was no reason to advertise online in CPM form again.

Addressable media will make a similar sea change.  Now, there need only be four types of people you pay to advertise to online:

  • Those who are interested in your particular offering as evidenced by their searches.
  • Those who have expressed an interest in your Web site by coming and perhaps taking an action you are interested in.
  • A custom audience of people you define.
  • People who model similarly to the people above.

You’ve heard about how people seek out news that agrees with whatever viewpoints they have.  We are going to come to an age when you are going to have ads that are similar — your ads will be targeted to things the Al Gore rhythms know you want.

And as an advertiser, you need to coordinate these with your other direct marketing activities, as this will go from novel to expected to required faster than you think.

Personalization.  Millennials especially, but really all of us, are becoming more and more immune to broad brush approaches (hence why addressable media are important).  This is why books like The Cluetrain Manifesto and Permission Marketing sound current and relevant now even though they were written 15-plus years ago.

With the multiplication of media, we are simply not going to have time to pay attention to things that don’t pay attention to use.  That used to mean getting your name right instead of saying Dear Occupant.  However, as my personal law dictates, it’s going to be more and more important to know more and play back what you know about a person.  To learn more about personalization techniques, try this.   In particular, playing back people’s connection to the cause is important.

Impact. It’s often said that Millennials want to see what their gift does.  Doesn’t everyone? People want to see that they are making a difference.  Not that your organization is making a difference, but that they are making a difference.  The best thing that you can do is tell them the story of that difference related to the why that makes them give.


Requiescat in pace

Content marketing.  In the NonProfit Pro piece, I also said that “Content marketing was highly effective before it was Content Marketing and will continue to be effective long after it becomes lower case again.”  I would work to debunk the hype around that this is a new idea, but the podcast This Old Marketing does a better job than I ever could, showing content marketing schemes that go back to Poor Richard’s Almanack and before.  I’d also love to explain what content marketing is in simple words, free from hype, but Sorry for Marketing did it better than I ever could as well.  And it’s funny; here’s a sample image of the Jargon Monster:

jargonmonsterNote that Millennials is one of those jargon words…

So I’ll simply add that bringing people in through content not only acquires new constituents; it helps you learn about what those specific constituents want so you can deliver it.  

Mobile.  If you aren’t optimizing for mobile already, do so.  It’s now, for many if not most, the primary way that people are looking at your Web site, donation form, content marketing, etc.

Cultivation — valuing people over institution and connections over transaction.  FOTB (Friend of the Blog) Angela Struebing did a nice 2016 intro here talking about getting to real donorcentricity and talking about impact, rather than our usual talking about programs and studies and such.

But this is frequently talked about in the context of Millennials — they want a relationship, not a transaction; they want to fund causes and impacts, not organizations.  Like so many things, this isn’t just Millennial phenomenon, but something we will have to wrestle will from now until I don’t know when.

So, in summary, when someone says they want to target Millennials, start by trying to improve your messaging to humans.  I assure you, regardless of what you read to the contrary, Millennials are human.

The legitimate non-profit trends that Millennials are a part of, but don’t define

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