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Selling Nonprofits to Generation Y - on Paper

Lori Halley 02 October 2008 1 comments

It’s generally accepted that the nonprofit world is closely modelled on that of business.  A positive balance on the owner’s year-end bank statements, or a positive impact on whatever cause the nonprofit was formed to support? There’s a strong parallel. And nonprofits can benefit from the never-ending corporate research into what drives the "citizen-consumer" — especially teens and young adults, the first generation born into this high-speed, high-tech world.

Miriam Kagan (GenerationYGive) has been wondering, along those lines, could catalogs be Gen Y’s version of direct mail? Her question springs from between the lines of last year’s “State of the Media Democracy” report from Deloitte Touche — you can read the highlights here (PDF) — that revealed a startling fact about the under-25 crowd:

Generation Y, the “Millenials,” are still going to traditional media as well as the ‘Net for their information: 71% enjoy reading print magazines, even when virtually the same content is readily available online, and 58% say they look to magazines to tell them what’s hip.

If all these young people admit to reading magazines, then perhaps all is not lost for paper fundraising? At a minimum, those magazines could be a great place to get young donor’s attention. Now that I think about it, I do recall seeing ads for some *** cancer fundraisers in some of those style and fashion magazines I happen to read. But where’s everybody else?

Looking at the bottom line, most likely. Magazine advertising calls for a sturdy marketing budget, something that most small to medium-sized nonprofits simply can’t manage. But there may still be room here for nonprofits to benefit from Generation Y's keen interest in print publications. Done wrong, it could be an expensive flop. But what if...?

Despite all the cool things we do, I think few nonprofits have found ways to really get in with the Gen Y crowd (a great exception were those Lance Armstrong braceletsno matter how you or me might feel about them, young people loved em, and they were certainly hip). But then it seemed like everybody and their mother had a different colored bracelet out there, and it wasn’t cool anymore.

So here is a thoughtmaybe instead of DM we get at them through catalogs. Ones that tell our story more than “sell” our productsa mix of a magazine and catalog…

Kagan goes on to explain how she sees such a nonprofit magazine/catalog might work to “tell stories” — both on paper and in concert with the organization’s online outreach.

At first blush, the idea has echoes of the empire built by the National Geographic Society, and of some of the better museum catalogs that create excitement around the institution and its collections as much as they raise funds. But, surely, with all the cool-thinkers active in the sector, nonprofit print marketing could be brilliantly reinvented to grab the eye and engage the imagination of this new generation of young adults.

Fodder for a brainstorming session? It might very well be worth exploring. After all, which piece do you think would hit the 20-something’s recycling bin faster — an enticing magazine-style catalog, or yet another direct mail letter?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 02 October 2008 at 6:55 PM


  • Ashley Messick said:

    Thursday, 02 October 2008 at 12:07 PM

    As a happy member of the Millenials I can say for sure that I would be much happier to receive something that had additional information than just "the ask". I think that it is important to give me a reason to keep the piece of mail - something that will add value or engage me. For example if your direct mail has a calendar of upcoming events or goings-on in the organization or has a fun tip of the month - I am much more likely to stick that in my notebook or keep it to look back on later - thereby keeping the organization in my mind much longer - than if it is just background information for the organization and why I should donate or participate.  

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