Many nonprofits create a message for their donation campaigns on social media the same way they would an ad for their organization.

They say things like, “Support our organization…” or “You can help us by…”

The problem is these types of messages ask millennial to do something with little context — the same way advertisements do.

Unfortunately, millennials hate ads. In fact, only 1% of millennials say they would trust an organization based on a compelling advertisement.

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy for NewsCred gets this. He’s also discovered what actually captures a millennial audience.

In his words (and as a millennial, I 100% agree), “Millennials don’t want ads. They want stories.”

The nonprofits who understand this see amazing results. And thankfully, more nonprofits are jumping on board with sharing stories instead of ads.

Here’s an example, which I find quite powerful.

In May 2014, Edgar’s Mission, a farm animal sanctuary in Australia was given Frostie, a baby goat that could not use its back legs. Using donations, the sanctuary was able to build a wheelchair for the goat to help him get around.

Here’s a picture of Frostie:

Millennial Donors Frostie

Instead of asking people to support their organization, Edgar’s Mission wrote and shared an emotional story about Frostie:

“They cry like little babies, because they are little babies! Meet Frostie the Snow Goat. At just a few days old, Frostie’s pitiful little bleats pierce the ears and the heart just like the cries of a human baby…”

To accompany the post, they also created a two-minute video showing Frostie’s journey.

The results were incredible.

Over two million people watched Frostie’s video and thousands more shared his story on social media.

One prominent Facebook page, The Dodo (an animal awareness organization targeted to millennials) shared Frostie’s video with their followers, where it received another 5.5 million views, over 252 thousand likes, 107 thousand shares, and 11 thousand comments — incredible awareness for Edgar’s Mission.

That’s the power of creating an emotional story.

But maybe you don’t have an emotional story about a cute animal to share — that’s okay.

I’ve seen small nonprofits draw stories from the people their organization has helped, volunteers, EDs, staff, and supporters. Some easy places to start looking for good stories to share, as nonprofit storytelling expert Vanessa Chase suggests, is in your founding story, your vision story, your movement story, and your impact story.

From what I’ve seen (and can also attest to as a millennial), sharing an emotional story is the best way to capture a millennial audience.

The next step is simply connecting your story back to an ask for a donation.

I’ll cover how to do this on three of the most popular social media platforms, but first I’d like to point out the number one thing nonprofits get wrong when it comes to engaging millennials on social media.

The Number One Thing Nonprofits Get Wrong When it Comes to Engaging Millennials on Social Media

Millennials can’t go more than five hours without checking their social media feeds.

I think this stat is a bit off, because I can’t even go one hour.

This is why everyone says you must have a social media presence, and most nonprofits do… but most nonprofits I’ve seen are doing it wrong.

The problem is that they approach each social media platform with the same tactic: post as often as you can.

While this accomplishes the goal of having a social media presence, it actually decreases the quality of what’s being posted and the strategy behind why they’re posting.

This follows the age-old saying of quality over quantity — one great post on social media will get your nonprofit more attention than one hundred mediocre ones.

However, a great post on Facebook won’t translate into a great post on Twitter, because each social media platform serves a different purpose.

To optimize your chances of success (likes, shares, supporters, donations, etc.), each social platform must be approached with a different strategy — and this is exactly what I’m going to show you how to do.

I’ll show you the strategies that work best for three of the most popular platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

And while separate strategies for each social media is one of the most important factors of success, more importantly, if you want to increase donations from your campaigns, they all must lead back to what I call a solid homebase.

How to Create a Solid Homebase

I know a small foundation (they asked me to keep their name private) who created a donation campaign that ended up getting over 50 shares and more than 300 likes on Facebook.

Unfortunately their success on Facebook didn’t increase donations.

At first glance, it appeared they did everything right — they included a powerful story, a short video, an ask for donations, and a link back to their website’s homepage.

Five hundred people even clicked through.

But that’s where they noticed something off. The bounce rate of their Facebook visitors was nearly 100% (a bounce rate is the percent of viewers who only visit one page and then leave).

The problem they realized was that their homepage didn’t mention the story they shared on Facebook, and nowhere on the page did they give a link to donate.

So when people clicked their Facebook post, they were left to search for the donation page themselves, and unfortunately most didn’t bother.

This problem, it turns out, is something that affects everyone, but especially millennials — the internet has greatly decreased our attention spans.

As the foundation discovered, and research shows, you have about eight seconds to capture someone’s attention on your website to get them to complete an action (like donate), otherwise they become distracted and go back to scrolling through their feeds.

Fortunately, the foundation fixed their problem by building what I call a solid homebase.

A solid homebase is simply a page on your website that includes nothing but the full details of your donation campaign — videos, pictures, stories, etc. — and a prominent button to donate.

The reason for this is because it creates a distraction-free zone for millennials to stay engaged with the story they followed and take action to donate.

Millennial Donors Facebook

Here’s a great example of a solid homebase from CANFAR (Canadian Foundation for Aids Research):

Millennial Donors CANFAR

Their call to action to donate is prominently displayed, and they’ve included a more detailed write-up of the story they shared on their Facebook page. There’s really no room for distraction.

If you’re thinking of setting up a solid homebase, remember to include these five items on it:

  1. Full details of the story you shared on social media
  2. An image of who, or what is featured in your story
  3. A clear call to action — commonly a donate button

Once your solid homebase is set up, it’s time to begin promoting it on social media.

First, I’ll show you how to write posts for Facebook that actually gather donations.

How to Get Donations on Facebook

Facebook is the ultimate platform to share stories on — just scroll through your feed and count how many people are are sharing stories of their experiences.

But the way millennials read stories on Facebook is much differently than most expect.

In fact, millennials don’t really read posts on Facebook. The sheer amount of information they scroll through means they scan posts in a matter of seconds — reading only a few words here and there and quickly glancing at images.

If you do manage to capture a millennial’s attention, you have about two seconds to get your point across before they move on.

That’s why to be successful, you’ve got to condense your story into something that can be understood at a glance.

Learning how to do this effectively takes some experience, that’s why I recommend to follow one of the masters of creating engaging Facebook posts for millennials.

With over 37 million followers, Starbucks is one of the most popular Facebook Pages in the world. And that’s because they’ve figured out how to create scannable posts that engage millennials best.

Even though they aren’t a nonprofit, the formula they’ve perfected can be mimicked by any nonprofit, no matter the size, as I’ll show you.

First, take a look of this example of one of their posts that received 2.6 million views, 15 thousand likes and nearly seven thousand shares.

Millennial Donors Starbucks

At the heart, it’s an emotional story about a veteran and firefighter’s journey with post-traumatic stress.

The reason the post is successful, is because Starbucks compressed the story into one-sentence of copy along with a three-minute video interview — perfect for millennials who are scanning their feeds quickly.

The only thing missing from this post is a link back to a donation page (since Starbucks isn’t seeking donations).

But here’s an example of a small nonprofit finding success by applying these same principles and including a link to donate.

Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston wanted to raise funds for its programs, so they created a campaign for Facebook (at the time, they had less than 5,000 followers).

Every day for a week, they shared a few sentences of a story about someone their nonprofit was helping along with an image or short video and an ask for a donation with a link back to their donation page.

Here’s one of their posts:

Rosies Place Millennial Donors

Just like Starbucks, everything in this post can be grasped in just a few seconds — from the first sentence of the copy, to Judi’s expression — while still telling a powerful story.

By the end of the week, 150 people donated to the shelter (a total of 3% of their followers) — proving just how effective condensing a story into a scannable post for Facebook can be.

If you’re thinking of creating a Facebook campaign, it’s easy to apply these same principles to your posts:

  1. Write a story in one or two sentences about someone your nonprofit is helping
  2. Include a short video or visually engaging image in the post
  3. Include a call to action (donate, volunteer, sign up, etc.)
  4. Link to your homebase

That’s it. Next, I’ll show you how to maximize your campaign’s impact on Instagram.

How to Get Donations On Instagram

59% of Instagram’s users are aged 18-29, so it’s perfect for finding and engaging millennials.

However, I commonly see nonprofits following bad tactics in trying to find success.

One misconception about Instagram is that more followers equals more success, so some nonprofits will follow as many accounts as possible to try and get those accounts to follow them back.

Here’s an example of a nonprofit who’s done this (I’ve hidden their account name):

Bad Example Instagram

While they have over 5,000 followers, their posts barely get any like or comments. If you look at how many people they’re following, it becomes clear why — they followed thousands of people in the hopes that those people would follow them back.

This works to get more followers, but it only attracts people who are trying to increase their own followers and likes. It does nothing to attract people who will become true supporters of your organization.

If you really want to find success from sharing your story on Instagram, there are two key things I’ve seen work.

The first is to post visually-engaging images on a consistent basis — yes, this is one case where posting frequently does meet some success. The reason for this is because Instagram’s algorithm is set to keep the most recent posts at the top of users feeds.

On top of this, research proves messages are more effective when repeated, so this also increases the chances of someone investigating your posts further and then donating to your cause.

So, your chances of success with posting a series of images related to your donation campaign are much higher than posting just one image.

The nonprofits that know this create a large backlog of images to post even before they begin executing their campaign. If you need some ideas, check out this great post by social media expert, Lilach Bullock on The 3 Best Instagram Strategies for Nonprofits.

For an example, take a look at how much Edgar’s Mission posted pictures of Frostie the Snow Goat once they published her story — each one of these posts has hundreds of likes and comments.

Frostie the Snow Goat Millennial Donors

The second thing that will help your nonprofit on instagram is including the right call to action in each of your posts.

Essentially, you want to link each post back to your homebase, but this is a bit tricky to get right based on Instagram’s rules.

Instagram does not allow links in their posts. The only place to put a link is at the top of your account in your bio — and you only get one.

To maximize your campaign’s effect, make that link go to your homebase and then tell people to click that link in all of your post descriptions.

Here’s an example from the Genesis Women’s Shelter, which sees a lot of success from their Instagram campaigns.

Here they’ve included a link to their current campaign in their bio, along with their mission and contact information.

Genesis Womens Shelter Millennial Donors

All the posts related to their campaign ask their followers to click the link in their bio.

Here are two examples.

The first is a post about a donation campaign they’re running. In the description, you can see they ask their followers to click the link in the bio.

Genesis Women's Shelter

Here is a second example of an event they ran in February. In their promotion posts, they wrote, “Purchase tix through link in bio.”

Genesis Women's Shelter

So, when executing your next campaign on instagram, create a backlog of original posts and plan to use the link in your bio strategically. Then, in your posts, tell your followers to click the link in your bio.

Doing these things can increase your chances of success in getting millennials to donate from Instagram.

The next social media platform I’ll cover is Twitter.

How to Maximize Impact on Twitter

Good news: 38% of millennials have a Twitter account.

Bad news: the nonprofits who try to elicit donations from them rarely see success.

In fact, Twitter even started an experiment to allow nonprofits to accept donations directly through tweets, only to discontinue it.

The reason is that Twitter is primarily used to keep updated on breaking news, that’s why promotions don’t typically fair well.

Still, there’s a way to use Twitter to generate more interest in your donation campaign (or whatever campaign you’re running) — and that’s to follow this age-old advice:

If you can’t beat them, join them.

This is exactly what Edgar’s Mission did with their Frostie the Snow Goat campaign.

They used Twitter to keep their fans updated on all the news surrounding Frostie:

Frostie Snow Goat Millenial Donors

If you notice, each of their tweets has a different link — some to news sites, their facebook page, their instagram page, etc. Edgar’s Mission used Twitter to amplify the stories on other platforms that are more effective at gathering donations.

For example, the first tweet in the list above goes to a video on Facebook where they include a call to action to visit their website for more info.

Millennial Donor Twitter Post

In the same way, I’ve seen the nonprofits who use Twitter as a news-sharing platform to amplify their campaigns on other social media and their website find the most success.

The Best Advice From What I’ve Seen

From what I’ve seen, it can take a lot of time and effort to tackle more than one social media platform at once, especially if you’re just starting out.

My advice is to pick one platform to tackle (example, Facebook) and stick with it until you find success with getting millennial donors.

This post on millennial donors originally appeared on the Wild Apricot blog.