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Donor Participation Project

Three Consumer Rebellions and What They Mean for Nonprofits Today

Nonprofits today face major challenges in reaching and engaging supporters. According to author and marketing expert Mark Schaeffer, three major “consumer rebellions” have reshaped how organizations connect with their audiences. Understanding these rebellions is key to nonprofit success.

The first rebellion was against advertising.

Consumers today are adept at avoiding ads and tuning them out. Nonprofits can no longer rely on ads alone to spread their message or inspire action. The solution is to focus on storytelling and creating an emotional connection with supporters. Share authentic stories that highlight your impact and mission.

The second rebellion was against loyalty programs and the notion of “earning” loyalty.

Today’s consumers want transparency and authenticity. They will support organizations and buy from brands that align with their values—not because of points or perks. Nonprofits should build real relationships with supporters, not transactional ones based on rewards. Show how you genuinely make a difference.

The third rebellion is against technology and automation.

Consumers crave human connection and relationships. Nonprofits should avoid relying solely on technology, automation, and impersonal communication. While digital tools have a role to play, personal outreach and genuine interaction are most meaningful to supporters. Highlight the human faces behind your work.

Nonprofits must adapt to new realities. Ditch mass advertising for authentic storytelling. Replace loyalty gimmicks with real relationship building. And remember that no technology can replace human-to-human connection. Focus on your mission and values, share stories of real impact, build personal relationships, and engage supporters in your work. By embracing a human-centered approach, nonprofits can overcome consumer rebellions and thrive. The most human organizations will win.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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