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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofit organizations use marketing to engage Millennials?

In order to have long term fiscal sustainability, nonprofits must be considering future generations as potential donors and supporters.  Baby Boomers and Generation X have fiscally supported nonprofits for decades, now Millennials are the next generation that must be courted.  They have a different approach and outlook on life than previous generations, as such traditional marketing and fundraising techniques will be less effective.  It is crucial for nonprofit organizations to understand what motivates this generation and to add millennial strategy to their marketing plans.  Nonprofits must stay on top of social media trends and create engaging experiences for millennials in order to capture their loyalty.  According to a PEW Research Poll, millennials now make up the majority of the US labor force.  (PEW, 2015) As time goes on, this generation will accumulate more wealth and become increasingly more critical for nonprofits to pursue as a revenue source.  In a 2012 report, the National Chamber Foundation cited that Millennials have approximately “$200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending.”  The study then goes on to claim that “With Millennials’ peak buying power still decades away, marketers would do well to establish relationships with this consumer force.” (National Chamber Foundation, 2012)

As with all previous generations, Millennials have characteristics that make their generation unique.  Millennials are defined as people who were born approximately between 1981 and 2000. (NPQ, 2014) In 2010, the PEW Research Center put out a report titled “Millennials, A Portrait of Generation Next.”  They found that this generation is “more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.”  (PEW, 2010)

Millennials want more out of engagement with nonprofits than previous generations.  As a wearier generation, this group needs more interaction in order to become a loyal follower of a cause or nonprofit.  “Millennials first support causes they are passionate about (rather than institutions).” (Millennial Impact Report, 2013) Since Millennials like to associate themselves with a cause rather than an organization, nonprofit organizations are faced with the challenge to determine how they can make their organization synonymous with a cause.  Nonprofit organizations can do this through the following means.



  • “When it comes to motivating a Millennial to give, successful nonprofits should focus on clearly communicating their mission and trustworthiness.”  (Millennial Donor Report, 2011)
  • Nonprofits should be incredibly clear on the work that their organization is doing and the impact that it makes on their specific cause.  


  • The “always connected generation” must be engaged where they spend more of their time, which is digital space.  
  • Social media is important to keeping Millennials interested and invested in an organization.  They should provide interesting, cause-relevant content on a consistent basis.  
  • Email lists can keep Millennials informed on a nonprofit’s impact and an up to date website


  • To brand an organization is to manage how the public perceives the organization itself.  
  • “Nonprofit leaders need new models that allow their brands to contribute to sustaining their social impact, serving their mission, and staying true to their organization’s values and culture.” (Kylander, 2012)  


  • Nonprofits must come up with interesting, cause related experiences if they want to attract this generation.  This can include the following:
  • Informal happy hours with a cause-related twist such as a talk by a staff member
  • Volunteer opportunities that provide one of the following: social interaction, professional development 
  • Micro-volunteering which is easy ways for individuals to get involved including sharing an article on Facebook or asking them to contact their legislators in support of the cause.  

If nonprofit organizations want to have long term fiscal sustainability, they must start attracting Millennials to their organization and their cause.  Millennials are currently the largest living generation and are amassing a substantial amount of wealth and buying power.  Nonprofits must look at establishing new marketing techniques and revamping traditional ones to capture the hearts and dollars of this generation.  To improve relationships with this generation, nonprofits should consider investing in communications, technology, branding and experience.  While it may seem like a daunting task, nonprofits can begin work on these four areas of marketing to Millennials to see monumental returns in the long term.


Kylander, N., & Stone, C. (2012, Spring). The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector (SSIR). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from 


The Millennial Donor Report (Rep.). (2011). Johnson Gossnickle and Associate, Acheive.

Millennials: Portrait of Generation Next (Rep.). (2010). PEW Research Center.

The Millennial Generation (Rep.). (2012). The National Chamber Foundation.


Chris Chappell is currently the Social Media Coordinator for Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company.  He works on the marketing committee for Sinagua Malt, a Benefit Corporation malting barley to restore flow to the Verde River.  He also spent two years at the Building Conservation Community Coordinator for the Arizona chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Christopher is a graduate of ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management.


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