The Millennial Impact Report has been collecting data since 2009 from groups of individuals between the ages of 20-35, also known as Millennials or Generation Y. They release reports of this data on a yearly basis and include trends in giving, service, and communication between Gen Y and nonprofit organizations.
The 2013 report was no exception. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report shows that "Millennials aren’t interested in structures, institutions, and organizations, but rather in the people they help and the issues they support.”
One area discussed in the report that stood out in terms of nonprofit online marketing strategies was the focus around a nonprofit’s website and how Millennials interact with it. The first finding is the most important to focus on when thinking about your marketing and fundraising strategy: “Millennials prefer to connect via technology.”
More specifically, they want to connect with your organization through your website first and foremost, as well as through social media, your blog, and email. I am going to focus on the first channel -- your website -- by providing 9 tips to optimize your nonprofit's website to engage with this younger, eager to give generation, online.
1) Keep your website up-to-date.
75% of Millennials that were surveyed said their biggest pet peeve about organizations' websites is that they were not kept up-to-date with relevant news, events, and content. If you have a blog and your last post is from over a month ago, it’s time to write a new post.
Also, keep your volunteer opportunities, event calendar, contact information, and annual reports up to date on your website. This is where individuals are coming first to find information about your organization. If it is not accurate or up to date, Millennials are most likely not going to go looking for it elsewhere and will give up on connecting with your organization.
2) Explain exactly what your organization does.
“Think of your website as the foundation for your organization.” In the past, your organization may have relied on newspaper ads, direct mail, and cold calling to inform the public about your mission. These days, individuals are finding information about your organization online in their own time. When they do search for information about a cause related to yours, your nonprofit’s website should be the first place they go to for information. Make sure your purpose and/or mission is front and center on your homepage. If this information is difficult to find within 30 seconds of visiting your website, it's likely these interested individuals will leave.
Communicating to your website visitors what your mission is and what you do isn’t enough if you want to convert these individuals into actual supporters. They want to see the proof of your past work if you’re not a new organization.
If you are a new nonprofit, explaining where a supporter’s funds or time volunteered is going to go is equally, if not more, important. Hiding your annual reports in your homepage’s footer or behind several pages isn’t helpful for those looking for results. Instead, incorporate your annual report into your homepage, whether by creating a call-to-action to download the most recent version, or a sliding banner that shows stats from your report. Make sure your reports are easily accessible and, if you have some design resources, as visual and interactive as possible.
You have the results of your work. Why not show them off? Millennials want you to brag!
4) Allow constituents to connect with you on social media.
The number one action -- identified by 50% of the Millennials -- taken on your website is to connect with you on social media. Make sure your social media icons are prominent and above the fold. If you are only on one or two social networks -- say, just Facebook -- that’s perfectly fine. But making it easy to connect with your organization through different channels is important when interacting and attracting Millennials to your cause.
Millennials are more likely to volunteer their time and give more frequently, so you need to attract them to your organization through the channels they use most frequently. It also provides you with another way to communicate with those that may not be ready to support your organization, but do want to learn more.
5) Make it easy to give.
The second most common action a Millennial takes on your website is making a donation. 46% of survey respondents say they go to an organization's website to make a donation. So while you may have a prominent donation button, make sure the process of making a donation is easy, too.
If it takes more than two clicks to get to your donation page, your donation process isn’t as easy as it could be. Whether it's eliminating the number of pages needed to go through or switching to another donation tool that's more user friendly, keeping the donation experience in mind when selecting a donation processor is just as important as having the button itself. Consider looking for a tool with customizable form fields as well so you can collect only the most important information and minimize the time it takes to make a donation.
Test it out yourself; see how many clicks and minutes it takes you to make a donation online to your nonprofit. If it takes more than 2-3 clicks and/or 3 minutes, it’s not easy.
6) Tell stories on your blog.
The third action taken most by Millennials on a nonprofit's website is reading a blog article. 46% of Millennials are looking for information about your organization on your blog. They want to hear the stories of those involved with the organization and who the mission has impacted. A blog is a great way to show the proof of your past work as well as your impact. It can also help drive traffic to your main website, which you can link to in your blog posts.
Incorporating calls-to-action to “Volunteer” or “Fundraise” in the side bar of your blog is a great way to drive conversions and new supporters. A blog is a great tool to share information to a large audience on a consistent basis.
7) Make sure its mobile friendly.
83% of survey respondents say they own a smartphone, and a majority of them use their phones to read emails and articles from nonprofits. “They also like it best when organizations have mobile-friendly websites (80%) and provide news and action-oriented headlines that link to more information or next steps (59%)."
If your website and emails are not mobile optimized, they should be. If you are redesigning your website or looking for a new email service provider, keep their mobile capabilities on the top of your “must haves” list. If you ignore this channel, you will lose traffic to your website more and more each year for the foreseeable future.
8) Provide a personal and emotional connection.
During user testing conducted for the Millennial Impact Report, many responded that “joining an organization rests on emotional responses to want to join and give to the cause." If you cannot connect your potential supporters to your cause emotionally, whether through storytelling or showing your impact, you're leaving out one of the key components to why people give and fundraise. Individuals connect to a cause because they can see who is being impacted, and they give when they can see how a small or certain amount of money will do x, y, or z. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Show the personal impact your organization makes every day and let others connect with it.
9) Keep it simple and visual.
One of the most important aspects of an engaging website is to keep it simple, and to-the-point. When was the last time you read the three paragraph explanation on a website of what an organization or business does? Instead, focus on a succinct phrase or statement for your homepage, telling a new visitor exactly what you do and why. This can be done with words over an image, or a short video. Whatever you do, keep it to-the-point and easily digestible.
Also, try to avoid generic stock photos, and use images from your past event, trips to the field, or project sites. The more authentic the images, the better.