Gen Z is fast-paced, passionate, engaged, and motivated. We look at how charities can rise to the challenge, meet their audience, and attract Gen Z donors
Who are Gen Z and what do they want? That’s the question being asked by marketers from the commercial and non-profit sectors alike. While targeting the young age bracket is nothing new and generalisations about people in a certain age group are only ever that – generalisations – there are certain things that make the Gen Z crowd distinct.
Defined loosely as people born from 1995–2010 and ranging from about the ages of 11–26 (as of 2021), Gen Z are the first generation of true ’digital natives’. While their now slightly older cohorts Millennials (1980–1995) have been fluent in the digital world from a young age, Gen Z are unique in having never known a time when mobile phones and the internet didn’t exist.
Coupled with this, many Gen Z’ers are growing up, leaving school, going through university, or starting out in work during a global pandemic. Numerous academic papers will no doubt be written about the untold impact this will have on the lives of these young people and on society as a whole.
Add to the mix last decade’s Great Recession and the increasingly serious threat of global climate change, and you have a generation shaped by uncertainty, fear for the future, and a lack of faith in the institutions and ideals that got us to this point. At the same time, the digital world offers many young people a sense of empowerment. And who can blame them?
Here are a few interesting takeaways for charities looking to engage this elusive generation.
Thanks to Greta Thunberg, could Gen Z be known as the first generation to take climate change seriously?
Gen Z are not going to sit around and wait for adults to solve the problems of the world and they’re not afraid to use the platforms available to them to make real change. A 2017 study found that 81% of Gen Z’ers believe they can have an impact on social or environmental issues by using social media.
As a charity, this is the sort of supporter you need. While many may not be financially stable enough to be regular donors yet, that’s not to say they’re not generous (Gen Zers gave around £2.2 billion to UK charities in 2017.)
However, what’s more important is that Gen Z can be powerful advocates who know how to influence online (they invented the social media influencer, after all). Gen Z are connected and are experts at gathering support through the latest social media platforms. Getting to know these platforms should be central to any Gen Z targeting strategy.
Gen Z are ready and waiting to ’go viral’ by peer-to-peer fundraising for your charity online. A 2019 study from CAF showed a huge amount of untapped enthusiasm from young donors to do something daring or creative for charity. Over three-quarters (77%) of 16–24 year olds would bungee jump, shave their head, or do something else daring to raise money for a good cause, well above the national average of 49%.
They make great candidates for digital volunteering, too. Research from the British Heart Foundation found that people aged between 16–24 volunteer the most time to good causes. Why not reach out to young people and offer them the opportunity to lend their much-coveted digital skills in return for building experience and helping a cause they feel strongly about?
Gen Z may have the enthusiasm and impetus, but it’s not all good news – charities have to work extra hard for their attention. Studies have shown young people are spending more time online than ever before, and the pandemic has meant many are living large parts of their life virtually.
Because of this, there is evidence that Gen Z’s brains may actually be adapting to filter out the noise from the deluge of information they’re presented on a daily basis.
What can charities do to avoid falling through this filter, and offer them content of real value?
As a generation driven by individualism and inclusive values, making your charity’s values clear and showing transparency and accountability will go a long way. Reaching out to influential thought leaders, artists and activists who might be able to serve as ambassadors can give you a way in with Gen Z online communities that feels less transaction, and far more authentic.
But do not be afraid to do this while being entertaining. Make an effort to engage using online gaming and get to know the games and platforms that young gamers love. Streaming platforms like Twitch offer charities the opportunity to communicate and fundraise to an audience of millions.
They may be young now, but by failing to engage Gen Z online, charities are missing out on building lifelong relationships with their future donors, and passionate future volunteers and employees.