Engaging Millennials, Developing an Effective Advancement Strategy


Advancement departments may consider Baby Boomers and Generation X as the most likely to contribute when it comes to donor relations and securing donations. The Millennial generation accounts for 21.67% of the population as opposed to Baby Boomers (20.58%) and Generation X (19.61%), according to a 2023 Statista report.


Millennials are quickly growing in buying power. According to two U.S. studies, Millennial spending is just over $65 billion. You’re missing valuable opportunities if you’re not engaging millennials as a viable donor base.


But Millennials have different expectations for donor engagement. 


Historically, data strategy around advancement focuses on the information collected and how it’s used. When considering a traditional data strategy perspective, advancement departments emphasize data maintenance and contact information. This strategy is all about getting accurate contact information to send direct mail or phone numbers to converse—aiming to grow their allegiance or affinity to the organization.


Organizations need to rethink their advancement strategy for millennials. Precisely, one that includes having digital communication at the forefront. 


Here’s how to develop an effective advancement strategy that engages millennials.

Understand How Millennials Differ

Millennials are interested in something other than receiving direct mail or getting caught on the phone. To them, those are outdated approaches. Creating a strategy in the digital communication space is essential, specifically on social media.


Choose the social media platform carefully because the platform you use will impact their willingness to donate. Identify how you can leverage your existing platforms to engage millennials. Is it necessary to acquire another? Or can you add something to complement your strategy? 


For example, in eCommerce, omnichannel shopping allows customers to shop in-store, online, and via mobile. Use a similar methodology for your advancement strategy to offer a complete donation approach.


Here are some other ways Millennials differ from other generations.

  • Impact: Millennials want to know their gifts will make a difference.
  • Influence: This cohort is primarily influenced by their network including peers, family, and friends.
  • Efficiency: Millennials value speed and efficiency. You must capture their gift quickly and easily—if you don’t, it may never happen.
  • Authenticity: They are not impressed by a nonprofit with a well-established brand or respected name; it’s all about the cause and whether it speaks to them authentically.
  • Flexibility: Millennials expect omnichannel donation options, including online (social media, text message) and offline options. 

Develop a Data Strategy

The traditional approach regarding data strategy around networks and relationships for a particular donor focuses on finding the six degrees of separation. The six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of “friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It is also known as the six handshakes rule.


The new approach for data strategy includes collecting information about networks and relationships and provides opportunities for group engagement. For example, a group engagement that consists of volunteer opportunities. If you can get one person on board, it is likely you’ll have the rest of the group because millennials are influenced by their peers.


Another aspect of data strategy, from a networking perspective, is to review what social activism groups millennials participate in. Prioritize collecting information about what is important to them. This inspires engagement opportunities and segments accordingly.

Refocus Stewardship 

Donor stewardship is the relationship-building process that occurs after a donor makes a gift. The main purpose of stewarding your donors is to inspire them to give again. Creating a connection with your donors will make them feel loyal to your nonprofit. And this, in turn, will help your future fundraising efforts.


The underlying element of stewardship is to show the donor their gift is appreciated and communicate the impact of their support. The traditional approach does this but focuses on general acknowledgement. 


For example, organizations say thank you with a general acknowledgment of the gift’s impact—i.e., your contribution helped us raise $2 million for gymnasium renovations—statistics may be provided to further the case.


But generalizing stewardship eliminates opportunities to engage Millennials and makes it feel less authentic.


A better approach to stewardship includes “we,” effectively bringing the Millennial donor into the fold. Showcasing we empowers Millennials to want to be a part of something that makes a difference. If you choose to include statistics, supplement with a real-life story that Millennial donors could potentially see themselves in. Statistics are great, but they don’t have as much impact as sharing a personal story.




Statista Report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/296974/us-population-share-by-generation/

Millennial Spending Statistics: https://moneytransfers.com/news/2022/08/24/millennial-spending-statistics#