How To Increase Nonprofit Engagement by Marketing To Different Generations

Every generation has a drive to volunteer, because they see it as their civic duty or a chance to impact the bigger picture, that drive transcends each generation. These individuals are out there actively looking for ways to get engaged with different nonprofit missions. Meaning as a nonprofit looking for these volunteers, you should continually adapt your marketing strategy to capture as many volunteers as possible from each different generation. The convenient adaptability is one of the many inherent benefits of a custom website that is intended for marketing.

Currently, the workforce has the most diverse set of generations working together than ever before. This means the volunteer workforce has an even larger pool of generations they need to engage. Knowing this can help you begin to understand how best to reach each different generation through different marketing channels.

Understand each generations preferred communication channel.

Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X (Gen X-ers), and Millennials each have different accessibility when it comes to how they prefer to communicate with the world. According to the Minnesota Literacy Council, Traditionalists will be much less likely to see and respond to social media and emails, they prefer to receive phone calls, mailed letters or in person. Yet, the generation immediately following them, the Baby Boomers, prefer to receive emails, texts and reach out on Facebook.

The Baby Boomers share traits with Gen X-ers in how they prefer to communicate. Gen X also is highly engaged through email, text and Facebook. Be cautious though when simply lumping these two generations together. Each of these two generations has a different expectation of what it means to volunteer.Boomers want short term volunteer assignments that allow them to use their particular set of skills to help out a bigger picture. Gen X-ers want to be able to see the direct impact they have made to a cause due to their hard work.Keep the motivations driving each generation in mind while creating your marketing strategy in order to connect successfully with each generation.

The last main generation that nonprofits should try to connect with is the Millennials. This is the youngest generation in the workforce and also the most plugged in with technology and social media. Nonprofits can reach this generation mostly through mobile communication and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They engage with nonprofits not only because they see it as their civic duty, but also as a means to gain some professional experience.

Use the strengths and weakness of each generation to help your nonprofit.

Each generation has its own work style. This means that each volunteer that comes to help work at your nonprofit has different ideas of what exactly this means. By embracing this your nonprofit can help their mission, but also help individuals develop each other. Acknowledging these strengths and weaknesses could be key to making your nonprofit’s volunteers experience great.

Traditionalists are the oldest group of volunteers, but also the most active. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service about one in four older adults volunteer each year. They prefer hierarchal structure and can follow the rules. As each generation gets older and move into retirement, they seek to stay active. This is also the trend with Baby Boomers, they tend to give more time and money to organizations that continually engage with them. Though, they tend to be more hard working and supportive of causes that have a personal link to them. They both see the value of volunteering but still view it as a type of work that needs to be done.

The Gen X-ers are more self reliant when it comes to their volunteer style. They find a balance in their work and life to make the time to volunteer. When they find that time they want to have it be fun and allow them to work with a new team. Millennials want that as well, they find a balance in their life and want to have fun while working. However, Millennials want to have a louder voice in the volunteer process and the decisions to have larger part of making an impact.

Though the generations all have unique strengths, they sometimes conflict one another. For instance Millennials with their need to collaborative in creating tasks may come off as insubordinate to Traditionalists. This creates a challenge for nonprofits to create an environment where different generations can thrive and contribute.

Actively encourage generations to work better together.

Every generation has some common ground that a nonprofit can build to create a stronger volunteer community and experience for any volunteer. Trying to get volunteers to support each other can strengthen your marketing efforts for the future. While knowing how to reach out on your on as a nonprofit is important, never underestimate the importance that word of mouth can have for your cause.

According to Jennifer J. Deal from the Center for Creative Leadership, value, recognition, and respect are top needs that volunteering can fulfill. Each generation wants to feel valued when they give their time and see value created through their work. When that feeling happens while volunteering, they are going to leave your nonprofit eager to share that excitement with their network.

Different generations also want to show how capable they can work together. This provides an opportunity for volunteers to engage with others with different backgrounds. Pairing volunteers and having them mentor each other can help both develop new skills. Small changes in a volunteer opportunity make it more impactful not in just the work accomplished, but for the volunteers. Creating this type of environment can encourage repeat engagement as well as strong word of mouth referrals to your nonprofit.

Every generation wants to stay engaged.

Understanding how different generations engage with volunteering can allow nonprofits to create powerfully effective marketing strategies. Yet, even better nonprofits can build a quality experience that can act a powerful second marketing campaign. By capturing the different strengths every generation has to offer nonprofits can further their missions and build a stronger community.

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Alex Hernandez

Current MBA student at the University of Kansas in the Marketing/Supply Chain track with a bachelor's degree in Communications Studies from KU as well. Enjoys volunteering during her free time and loves all varieties of music.

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