Intern Soapbox: Engaging the Digital Generation in Your Non-Profit

Born sometime between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is the newest generation to be named despite being 68 million strong in the United States alone and entering the world of consumerism at an unprecedented speed. As the first generation to grow up with the access and ability to “Google” anything and everything, this generation is not only fluent in the digital language, but it is overwhelmingly their preference for means of marketing communications. After all, I would know. 

As a 20-year-old undergraduate student currently studying Advertising & Promotion, it is my intent to enlighten you with some best practices for successfully reaching Gen Z as well as the strategic reasoning behind my suggestions. Hopefully, with successful implementation of some or all of these, your non-profit will be able to make compassionate donors, volunteers, and/or clients out of these technology-savvy and forward-thinking individuals before others take claim to them. 


Slow down. I almost guarantee upon reading that heading, you assumed I was going to suggest axing your email communications with Gen Z as an attempt to focus on alternative communication channels that might reach them better. However, this could not be any farther from the truth and is actually an exact opposite of my suggestion. 

In fact, I believe that it is very likely that your non-profit is not sending enough emails to this generation to keep them fully engaged and should ultimately be sending more. 

78% of gen z prefer email marketing

In a recent study conducted by Campaign Monitor, 78.3% of Gen Z prefers to be contacted via email from brands at least once a week with 31.8% saying that they prefer to hear from brands they support at least a couple times per week and 27.5% preferring daily. As with any mass segmentation of the general population, emailing every Gen Z’er in your subscriber base several times a week is not the magical solution that you might think it is and will invertedly result in a substantial loss of subscribers. 

Instead, non-profit marketers should take this information and do the following: 

  • Segment their subscriber base by individual frequency preferences and allow readers to easily opt in and out of particular mailing lists
  • Produce quality content that captures their readers’ interest and naturally encourages them to read it from top to bottom
  • Create an attention-grabbing yet truthful subject line, it’s no secret that my generation is comprised of skimmers with a low tolerance for inauthenticity
  • Utilize a number of graphics and videos throughout the copy

 Chances are that your non-profit is already utilizing email communication so be sure to refine your strategy often. Honestly, a number of these tips can be applied universally and don’t apply to strictly Gen Z audiences. 


Although your donation platform of choice—for many, PayPal—seems to be providing you the biggest monetary return because of the familiar ease it provides millennials and Gen Xers, it is crucial that non-profit organizations like yours recognize that there is a generational gap with some of the most used fundraising platforms.

In 2019, a study was conducted by Manole Capital Management that gauged Gen Z’s preferences in relation to mobile-based payment apps and it concluded that only 8% of that generation prefers PayPal to its competitors.

 If your non-profit is solely relying on PayPal as your digital collection platform, this statistic might be a sign that it is time to explore other options. Or, at the very least, you should consider diversifying your non-profit’s virtual giving presence to include the platform with a 75% preference rating amongst Gen Z otherwise known as Venmo. 

Venmo, whether you’ve heard of it or not, is a platform utilized by over 60 million individuals worldwide. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, it handled over $12B in transactions and continues to grow year after year. With an interactive and emoji-dominated social feed that can be toggled between global view and friend view, it allows Gen Z to customize their monetary transactions in a unique way and interact with others’ transactions. Although exclusive to this platform alone, Venmo unintentionally provides a world of opportunity for clever non-profits. 

generate brand awareness with venmo

If your organization has a strong Gen Z following, it might be worthwhile to create an association between your brand and a particular hashtag, emoji, string of emojis, or phrase that when used in the feed (i.e., someone donates), people start to recognize it as a donation to your non-profit and maybe it will even inspire them to do their own research on your cause. 

Unfortunately, Venmo does not currently support non-profit usage of its platform. However, the tech conglomerate is owned by PayPal and as we have already established, PayPal does already host this feature. Thus, I am hopeful that we will see non-profit usage integrated into Venmo in the near future. According to numerous sources, non-profit utilization of Venmo is already underway and is currently being beta tested. Regardless of the unknown timeline for rollout of this feature, there is still hope that your non-profit can utilize the platform to reach Gen Z.

With new fundraising platform GiveButter, non-profits such as yours can integrate a number of different digital payment services and view them all on one handy, accessible dashboard. As the only fundraising platform to offer Venmo—which offers an intuitive text-enabled donation system—it provides your non-profit a streamlined process for donors to give and for your non-profit to receive its money even faster. Perhaps most importantly? The GiveButter platform is absolutely free and provides incredible transparency for all parties involved. Although I have yet to use the platform with a client, there seems to be significant potential with GB and I believe that could provide real, tangible value to any non-profit seeking significant growth. 


Although I strongly identify with my generation, I am by no means an expert on it nor the sole spokesperson for it. The marketing suggestions above are merely that and are representations of my own perceptions about what non-profits are currently lacking when it comes to reaching Gen Z. We both know that Gen Z dominates virtually every social space aside from Facebook and your non-profit should likely consider meeting us on them too—but that is another blog post in and of itself.  Regardless of what you take away today, I hope that you found this post to be useful and perhaps even the initiator of a conversation amongst your non-profit’s marketing team on how to reach Gen Z. 

Remember, Gen Z currently comprises roughly 40% of buying power in the United States and that percentage will only grow in the years to come. 

Bonus Tip: If I had to give one word of caution to non-profits attempting to reach my generation in addition to the aforementioned advice, it would be to carefully consider your emoji usage. A number of emojis have multiple meanings and I would strongly suggest that non-profits with marketing teams lacking representation from anyone under the age of 25 consider consulting Urban Dictionary or the Twitter search bar before using even the most innocent of emojis.

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