A Lesson from the Non-profit Sector in Reaching Your Audience

What is one of the first things we learn as PR professionals? Know your audience – what they read, love…what their triggers are. That way, we are not only reaching our desired group of people, but affecting them and, at our best, influencing their decisions.

Many brands do this every day.

Less talked about, though, is how non-profits are targeting audiences important to them. Take the Millennial generation:

  1. A group full of social activists with a desire to do good
  2. A group mature enough to play a meaningful role, but young enough where securing their advocacy now can pay out in years of  dedication (and potentially years of larger and larger financial commitments)

Many non-profits recognize this and are working to create roles for them that encourage long-term involvement, not just sporadic moments of engagement.

According to the recently released 2012 Millennial Impact Report, Millennials tend to act in moments of inspiration, both in donating their time and money. And, not surprisingly, this group is not only tech savvy, but expects smart engagement through technology with organizations with which they have a relationship.

Building Tomorrow launched an online interactive tool called CalculateIt.org. The landing page of the site provides very little information about the organization, but rather engages the visitor by asking a question, “how much did your 1st – 7th grade education cost?” The tool calculates the cost of your elementary school education and then compares it to the cost of providing education to children in Uganda (clearly, these numbers will make you pause). The site is designed to engage with the visitor, allow the visuals and stats around education in sub-Saharan Africa speak for themselves and then encourage involvement or sharing of the information. (It works. I’m not even an avid Facebook user and I shared it). The organization says that this website has been one of the most effective ways to directly engage young professionals and college students.

The report also revealed that while Millennials like working on the front lines, leadership opportunities are equally important to them. Book Worm Angels works with Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management Board Fellows program to recruit board members. Book Worm Angels’ strategy is to allow Millennials to use their education and early experiences to the organization’s advantage while they are not only enthused and energetic to get into the workforce, but before they are burdened with preconceived notions about ‘what works and what doesn’t.’ Presumably, this segment also benefits from recent learnings in school, whether it be new business strategies or innovations in technology, that they can then bring to the organization.

Millennials and non-profits are just one example. The point is, think about who your audience should be (it may not be obvious at first) and then study them. Find out the right place and the right channel. By engaging your audience on their terms, you can generate a dedicated group of long-term customers, employees, or donors. Whether you’re a non-profit, small business or Fortune 500 company, that starting point can’t be skipped.

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