How to Target Gen Z

May 17, 2018 Emelie Oberg

Australia is currently home to 4.5 million Gen Zs - the generation of young people born between 1995 and 2009. By 2020, the world will be home to an incredible 2.6 billion of them. Here's why you should care.

Introducing the "philanthroteen"

Gen Zs are often referred to as 'philanthroteens' - and with good reason. Understandably, given they've grown up in an era defined by terrorism, refugee crises, climate change and economic uncertainty, this is the generation that cares most about the future of our planet. In fact, 60% of Gen Zs say they want to positively change the future - compared to only 39% of their Millennial counterparts. With their heightened social awareness and desire to take positive action, Gen Z clearly represents a huge opportunity for Nonprofits both now and in the years to come. Here's how to make sure your strategy appeals to this emerging demographic.


1. Be where they are.

The average Gen Zer spends up to 10 hours online every day. A lot of that time is spent on social media, but unless you're on the right platforms, you might as well not exist. So where are these digital natives spending their screen time? Here's a hint: it's not Facebook. The top 3 social channels for Gen Z:

  • Snapchat. 54% of Snapchat's 4 million Australian users are aged between 13 and 24, making it an essential channel for any Gen Z-focused campaign. What's more, over half of Snapchat users log in daily, spending on average 25-30 minutes on it a day, and a similar percentage say they would open a story from a brand. This is in line with the general consensus that Gen Zs are more open to brand messages on social platforms than the more cynical generations that precede them.
  • Instagram. 66% of Gen Z are Instagram users, with Instagram Stories (which emulates Snapchat's disappearing content concept) being a particularly popular feature. Stories disappear after 24 hours, making them perfect for charities looking to share content from events. They also appear in chronological order at the top of your followers' accounts, making your content more prominent than a post in the feed. And if one of your story is worth keeping on your profile, you also have the possibility to highlight it to make it permanently visible.
  • YouTube is the king of social channels as far as Gen Z is concerned. According to recent research, almost all Gen Zs use Youtube - and more than half say they can't live without it! For NFPs, one of the best ways to leverage Youtube is through partnerships with micro-influencers, who have a much stronger appeal for Gen Zs than the average, out-of-touch celebrity: 70% of teen YouTube subscribers say they relate to the platform's creators more than traditional stars.(Never heard of a micro-influencer? They're highly active digital content creators who specialise in a particular space or niche and have a modest but highly engaged fanbase. You can read all about how to tap into the micro-influencer trend here).

2. Make it snappy.

Millennials are renowned for their short attention spans, but Gen Zers find it even harder to stay focused. Studies have shown that, while the average Gen Yer can only pay attention to something for a mere 12 seconds, their younger siblings will tune out after just eight. Instead of giving one activity their full attention, Gen Z are experts in using multiple platforms and screens simultaneously (sometimes bouncing between up to five screens at once). What this means for charities is that you have one chance to get your message across and capture their interest - and if you don't do it instantly, the moment is lost. One way to make your message snappier is to learn your target audience's language. This is a generation which is used to communicating with symbols and images, from emojis through to gifs, so ditch the longwinded written appeal and say it visually instead. Remember to include popular nonprofit hashtags like #philanthropy, #socialimpact, #4charity, #socialgood, #volunteer, and #donate to enable your message to be discovered by a wider audience.

3. Adopt a mobile first approach.

Unlike their parents, who didn't start using mobile phones until their early twenties or later, Gen Zs are the first generation to have grown up with a smartphone. Naturally this makes them more reliant on their devices than any other demographic, and likely to turn to their smartphone for information before they look anywhere else. 

Making sure your digital presence is optimised for mobile is a good place to start - that includes making it quick and easy to donate via mobile (Gen Zs won't tolerate an overly complicated or clunky user experience). Event registration via mobile also needs to be a smooth experience to avoid the risk of potential recruits becoming distracted by one of the other 4 screens they're currently juggling at any one time.

4. Recruit them as volunteers.

Over a quarter of Gen Zs aged 16-19 volunteer on a regular basis, while 77% of Gen Zs say they are either extremely or very interested in volunteering to gain work experience. We know from past research that volunteers are not only highly likely to donate to the charity they volunteer for, but they also tend to donate more than non-volunteers, so it stands to reason that getting Gen Zs involved in your cause as volunteers is paving the way for them to become your future donors and lifelong supporters. And how do you attract more Gen Z volunteers to your cause? Following the steps from 1-3 above is good place to start. To learn more about the future of fundraising, check out our top three predictions here

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