How your nonprofit can engage Generation Z

Generation Z will make up one-third of the U.S. population by the year 2020. 

If the moniker sounds more like the name of the latest dystopian teen trilogy and less like a demographic grouping, let’s get a little more specific:

Generation Zers are individuals born after 1996. They are often described as “increasingly self-aware, self-reliant, innovative and goal-oriented.”

And if the Parkland students are any indication, the youth of Generation Z are primed and ready to mobilize. They are movement-motivated and mission-driven.

Sounds like just the kind of people you want as a part of your nonprofit’s tribe of supporters, right? Right.

Gen Zers are the perfect fit to take up the charge now, and eventually evolve into lifelong advocates for your cause.

So how do you engage them? Show authenticity. Show impact. And most importantly, show it all on the phone.

Get social

You want to meet people where they are, right? Well, Gen Z is on social. All. the. time.

A quick glance at the numbers confirms:

  • 88 percent use Instagram
  • 76 percent use Instagram on a daily basis
  • 88 percent use Snapchat
  • More than half of Generation Z Snapchat users are on the platform more than 11 times a day.

This is not the group you’ll attract with an information-packed monthly newsletter or catchy lead magnet on your website.

They want to connect with you on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Share information about your mission, upcoming events, and any important information about your organization via social media. Want to really speak their language? Make it a video.

Boosting your organization’s online accessibility will bring in even more attention from Gen Zers, which will ultimately lead to increased engagement for your nonprofit.


Get mobile

If you’re older than 25, you can probably think back to a time in your life when you didn’t have a mobile device tethered to your hand. But for Generation Z, smartphones and accompanying tablets were essentially part of their “welcome to the world” baby starter packs.

Gen Zers spend more than four hours a day online via their phones.

In the event that they are engaging with you outside of a social network, they are Googling you on their phones. Which means they are viewing your website on their phones. Which means your website better look good… on their phones.

This means optimization and responsiveness are critical. Make sure your site intuitively sizes and reformats to fit the screen. Your colors, fonts, and buttons need to be engaging and your mobile site needs to be user-friendly for scrolling thumbs, not just desktop viewing.

With a click of a button, they should be able to contact you, sign-up to volunteer, learn more, or donate their hard-earned babysitting money.

Get real

Since they’ve had a screen in front of them since birth, Gen Zers are pretty savvy when it comes to all things online. They know their ads are targeted. They know about branded content. They know when brands or organizations are “selling.”

Prioritize authentic storytelling over Kardashian-style product placements. After all, 63% of Gen Zers said they prefer marketing from “real people” over celebrities.

This authentic message should be apparent in all aspects and at all levels of the nonprofit. Share real, emotional narratives of your mission and the people you serve, and make sure the organization honors its vision and values through work and deeds.

These stories aren’t donor pitches, but instead calls to action for a group that is ready to engage.

Even more reason to attract Gen Zers with authenticity? While Millennials typically had just three devices, the latest generation is working with five. If you don’t catch their attention with your message (or ad or content), they are moving on to another screen.

Get (them) involved

What Gen Zers may lack in financial capacity, they make up for in passion and enthusiasm for the cause. And they bring that passion and enthusiasm en masse.

That third of the population by 2020 stat means that this group is on the brink—if they aren’t there already—of real, transformative influence and responsibility.

For instance, our friends at youth civic engagement nonprofit 22×20 don’t take that influence and responsibility lightly, and they are cultivating the generation’s voice and leadership within the democratic process.

Through a series of events across the country, online resources, and mobilization efforts, the group hopes to educate and inform Generation Z, and equip them with the ability to better discern and evaluate media messages within the political context.

Nonprofits can likewise engage this tour de force of a generation through meaningful volunteer opportunities and events. Give them (some of) the reins to take ownership of your cause, offering them a sense of pride in their work, and, in turn, additional support for the organization.

A few ways to engage:

  • Food drives
  • Door-to-door canvassing
  • Phone banking
  • Event registration.
26% of 16-19-year-olds can already be found volunteering on a regular basis.

These up-and-comers are ready to take the world by storm, and might just be the key to your org’s success and growth. Engage them now and harness their passion to support your nonprofit’s mission.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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