5 Mobile-Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits: Unlocking the Power of Millennials

Young supporters want philanthropy to find them on their smartphones.

For every generation, there is a demographic-specific recipe for successful marketing, for motivating and activating young consumers, reaching them with just the right mix of messages and ideas. When it comes to philanthropy and fundraising, Millennials are no exception. Nonprofits must prompt them with innovative experiences, aligning every engagement with the power of technology and the devices Millennials use.

As recent reporting shows, Millennials — a demographic set to outspend Baby Boomers in 2017 — are looking for nonprofits to focus less on established fundraising standbys. To some extent, these mobile-first consumers want fewer of the galas and direct mailings of the past. Instead, they desire messaging that reaches them in the digital space. Millennials want philanthropy to find them on their smartphones.

If mobile is the conduit to engaging Millennials’ philanthropic attention, then there are lessons that marketing’s work with retail and mobile can impart to nonprofit-fundraising leadership. In the five key strategies that follow, nonprofits can lay the groundwork for reaching young supporters, fueling campaigns with a fresh set of best practices, one mobile device at a time.

Reach Millennials with Apps

Nonprofits seeking Millennial connections can take a first lesson from what retail- and commercial-app developers have already discovered: a powerful app experience gathers active users. What’s more, for Millennials (and for Gen Z as well), app browsing and discovery is nearly compulsive. In our recent study, 60% of respondents, aged 14–29, encompassing both generations, said they download one or more apps weekly. That’s the equivalent of 3–5 new downloads per user, per month — a rate of engagement that no development department can ignore.

Relevance Is King

Millennials respond to highly contextual and relevant mobile outreach. In our research, 77% of Millennials and Gen Z said they prefer ads customized to their current activity, and, separately polled, 71% indicated a preference for ads that are customized to their location. Nonprofits can capture the demographic’s attention when they dovetail messaging and opportunities with the when, where, and what of Millennials’ location and activities.

Anticipatory Inspiration Activates

Younger mobile users want nonprofit organizations to not only capture where they are in the moment but also to suggest and anticipate what they’d like to do next. Millennials especially crave experiences that they haven’t thought of yet and they will take risks on new experiences. For example, Millennials are willing to travel to an event that strikes them as relevant — a performance, a night of tabling, a rally, a collection drive — and they’ll even tolerate a crowded space, or a long line, or the possibility that volunteer slots might be overfilled, if the event itself is tightly aligned with what they consider to be a personally meaningful experience.

Empowered, Millennials Spread the Word

When nonprofits get outreach right, they can count on Millennials to transform an on-site or online experience to digital word-of-mouth, especially when it earns them peer-based approval and affirmation in the social-media space. In other words, they’ll tell others about memorable moments via posts, texts, and e-mails. This emphasizes the importance of wi-fi, hashtags, and other digital tools at the events nonprofits run — social cause can leverage the powerful social networks that Millennials bring to bear.

Millennials Will Grant Data Access … with Conditions

Millennials and Gen Z are poised to grant organizations even more access to personal and location-based data if relevance and meaningful moments are in plentiful supply. Organizations need to be aware, however, that when data-asks seem too intrusive or not relevant enough, 82% of the young consumers we polled said they would withdraw their permissions … keeping it withdrawn until they perceive context and relevance that resonates.

It’s important to note that our research shows the above strategies applying to the digital lives of Gen Z as well as Millennials. That means that nonprofits have an even greater chance at capturing the energy of two up and coming mobile generations, collectively expected to command more than $250 billion in spending power.

The bottom line is this: creativity, relevance, and approaches that strike the right tone and pace activate Millennials and Gen Z mobile consumers. They are ready to hear nonprofits’ message, and the primary conduit for communicating with them is the powerful technology they’ve already adopted — the smartphones in the palms of their hands.

Julie Bernard is Chief Marketing Officer at Verve.

This article first appeared on AdLibbing, the Ad Council’s blog for social good marketers.

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