Six Ways Buddy the Elf Can Help Nonprofits Reach Millennials

Charles Klein is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and is the Social Media & Community Manager at Crowdvance. A 2011 graduate of The George Washington University, Charles has years of experience in the fields of social media, content marketing and fundraising.

With the holiday season undoubtedly upon us, it is time to settle in on your couch with a warm beverage (I prefer a mug of hot chocolate with Bailey’s) and watch your favorite holiday films. One of my personal favorites is Elf, which I plan on watching for the millionth time again this week.

During the discussions that I’ve had about acquiring new donors and the importance of recruiting millennials to join the cause, the group gets derided for a few understandable reasons. First, millennials are not the group that will butter as much of the bread as baby boomers (persons born between 1946-1964). Second, millennials can be flaky, hard to find and less likely to commit to doing anything. Third, nonprofits feel guilty about asking millennials to give when that group is simultaneously struggling to find work, places to live, etc.

But the statistics I have read do not necessarily back up any of those claims. According to Blackbaud’s “The Next Generation of Giving”, among the four demographics, millennials are the second most likely to fundraise for an organization (7%), to volunteer (30%), and the most likely to spread the word (18%).

You might be thinking, “OK, those are some great numbers, but how do I get my nonprofit in front of that group?” For this, we turn to Buddy the Elf.

1. Ask Questions Millennials Want to Answer

This may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised by how many companies, nonprofits and individuals who want to get a user’s attention fail to ask questions on social media. As one of my favorite writers on the subject Dave Kerpen suggests (his book Likeable Social Media is a must own for anyone in the field):

“If you ask your audience something, well, they’re gonna be much more inclined to answer you. And you can ask all kinds of great questions about your community, what they want to see, your products and services, how you could be doing better. Or just funny questions that inspire answers.”

There is no wrong way to ask your audience a question, and if that audience is millennials, ask them questions they are more inclined to answer.

2. Be Positive in Your Social Media Copy

One does not need to have a PhD in psychology to understand that people generally respond better to messaging that makes them feel happy. Remember when you are engaging with millennials to always remain positive, even when communicating about the serious problem your nonprofit is endeavoring to solve. If you want people to like what you post, you have to make the posts worth liking.

3. Remember to Congratulate Your Donors and Fundraisers

When something good happens, don’t be afraid to shout it from your social media pages, especially when it is about one of your donors, volunteers or persons who fundraise on your behalf. Be like Buddy the Elf, who entered a crowded coffee shop to congratulate the staff on having the world’s best cup of coffee. Even though the claim the shop made was baseless, Buddy’s cheerfulness undoubtedly brightened their day.

4. Say Thank You When Someone Gives

I’ve read many a thank you email from nonprofits, and I’ve always been surprised when some of them ask for another donation. My internal (and sometimes external) reaction is indignant. “How dare they? I just gave.” Remember to say thank you for what the donor has just done! If someone has chosen to fundraise for you by asking their peers to give, thank them publicly, privately and often.

5. Have Fun

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, please… HAVE FUN. BE ENERGETIC. USE CAPS LOCK. Show your audience you are alive. They will respond accordingly. Take Buddy, for example. After getting put in the mailroom by his father as a punishment, his positive attitude and desire to have fun at all times lifts the spirits of everyone around him. What was a depressed mailroom becomes a group people having a dance party. Make fundraising for you, and giving to you, like a dance party. All it takes is a little positivity and, “This is How We Do it” by Montell Jordan (or whatever song makes you want to get up from your desk and boogie).

6. Invite Them to Join the Plan

Your community will be more likely to get off the bench and into the game with you if you have a plan of action. It takes more than a, “Fundraise For Us” button or just tweeting “Fundraise for us.” You have to do more. Explain what the plan is. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the impact that the funds you are aiming to raise will have? How can a person fundraise for you effectively? Give them a plan as detailed as Buddy’s and the results will follow.


Millennials are worth your time if you make it worth theirs.
43% of millennials gave to their friends raising money for a nonprofit.
Millennials are the group most likely to spread the word about your nonprofit, second most likely to do peer-to-peer fundraising and volunteer at your events.
Use social media to engage with them, rather than using it to solicit donations.
Millennials have a greater appetite for combining shopping and giving to a nonprofit.

gifs: giphy, crushable, lockerz, tumblr; image: flickr
Six Ways Buddy the Elf Can Help Nonprofits Reach Millennials

Charles Klein

December 18, 2013

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