Cultivating Millennial Supporters

A young person listening to music through earbuds.

Looking for new supporters of your organization who are engaged, interested, and ready to be involved? Since 2009, the Millennial Impact Project has studied millennials, individuals now in their 20s and 30s, and their involvement in causes. Millennials want to make a difference and see the impact they can make through your organization.

Amy Thayer, who leads the Millennial Impact Project studies, described millennials as “sophisticated and complex.” She says that “millennials are connected to technology and social media, and they have also been found to be more inspired to give and volunteer by personal engagement and human connection.”

Julia Campbell, a digital marketing and fundraising consultant for nonprofits, added that organizations need to use a combination of technology and in-person activities to get millennials involved in their cause.

Who Are Millennials?

Millennial supporters are optimistic, idealistic and want to participate, said Campbell. She added that millennials grew up with the internet, understand technology, and are comfortable communicating digitally to large groups of people.

Thayer added, “They know they can contribute in different ways, are well-informed, and [are] confident in how they can best support causes and organizations through the use of their time, money, and talent.”

Millennials want to be directly involved in change. They can galvanize support using digital tools, yet they also like working in person. Campbell emphasized, for instance, that millennials prefer small fundraisers to extravagant galas. They may use their birthday to raise money for a favorite cause by emailing friends a donation link. Or they may organize an after-work event to get friends together to learn about or raise money for a cause.

[Learn more about who gives to women’s and girls’ causes.]

How Do I Attract Millennials to My Cause?


Campbell emphasized that millennials want authentic messages from organizations. Be transparent and accessible, whether your executive director communicates personally via social media or your messages contain behind-the-scenes stories of your work. Millennial supporters want to hear stories, see videos, and connect not only with the people benefiting from your work, but also with those doing it.


“Steward millennials to engage in your organization and your cause in a variety and multitude of ways,” Thayer advised. Because millennials want to get together with their peers, invite them to volunteer, run a food drive, or attend a happy hour fundraiser. Campbell encouraged asking millennials to help organize these types of activities for you. They can build support through their online peers, and will cultivate connections with other individuals in their generation.


Most millennials consume information through their phones. That means, Campbell emphasized, that any communication needs to be eye catching, concise, and, of course, mobile friendly.

Campbell added that there are so many social media formats for connecting with millennials (like Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram) that organizations often get overwhelmed and spread too thin. She recommended doing what you can, and always having a strategy and a plan for whatever form of social media you use.

Each social media platform has its own “language,” said Campbell, and millennials have zero tolerance for its misuse. Campbell recommended fitting your posts or messages “seamlessly” into whatever platform (or platforms) you use. For instance, on Instagram, post eye-catching photos or graphics, with text overlay. Videos also capture millennials’ attention. Use a casual, personal tone, Campbell says, and focus your messages on the impact you are making. Also, encourage millennial involvement in your messages by asking questions and getting their input on your work.

Keep this generation informed and engaged through social media, said Campbell, but use your website to showcase your work and priorities. Get millennials to sign up for your emails, and use this communication to develop an ongoing conversation with them.

Although millennials donate impulsively to a trending topic or news-making cause they believe is important, Campbell emphasized that developing relationships with them based on the impact you are making also leads to donations, as well as investors in your cause.

“Millennial donors want to witness and understand why a donation to an organization is a better choice,” Thayer explained. “Once they are educated and engaged, millennials are likely to become advocates on the behalf of these causes.”

[Read more about harnessing the power of mobile giving.]

9-5 pm Eastern