Changing Cause Behaviour of Millennials
13 June 2017 at 8:40 am
Today’s evolving political and social climate is changing the cause behaviour of millennials, according to a new US report.
Achieve, in partnership with the Case Foundation, has released the first phase of a three-phase mixed-methods research study investigating how changing social issues are affecting millennials’ interest and engagement in cause involvement.
The report addresses the characteristics of social issues that tend to see higher millennial participation rates, millennials’ levels of engagement in these social issues, and the characteristics of millennials who participate at each level of engagement.
Achieve president Derrick Feldmann said the aim with the 2017 report was to create “a genuine, active dialogue” among and between millennials and organisations about cause engagement and approaches to solving societal challenges.
“Inspired by the 2016 Millennial Impact Report we are taking more direct cues from millennials themselves in our 2017 annual exploration,” Feldmann said.
“Even in this early qualitative phase, we have found evidence that today’s evolving political and social climate is changing the cause behavior of millennials.
“As we progress in this environment of energized and active cause engagement – from national marches to massive boosts in donations to invigorated outreach to elected representatives – it’s imperative to accurately capture how millennials perceive and define their own cause engagement and what it means not only for philanthropy but also the social good sector in this decade.”
According to the report, millennials have a distinct vernacular when speaking of their cause-engagement behaviour and their work on behalf of addressing and/or solving social issues.
“In the 2016 Millennial Impact Report, millennials shied away from assigning labels to their cause engagement,” the report said.
“Millennials now seem to realize their behaviors have intensified, and the label they select for themselves (advocate, activist, ally) appears to be dependent on: how their actions compare to others, whether they act on behalf of a group to which they belong and whether they’re working within the system to create change or to change the system itself— and if voting is a mechanism through which they effect change.”
Researchers also found millennials’ interest in far-reaching social issues – “the greater good” – was driving their cause engagement, even when millennials did not have a personal connection to or receive direct benefit from the cause they joined.
“Past research have shown us that millennials engage with causes based on personal experiences and their passion for a particular issue. This notion, though still present to a degree, is being crowded out by millennials’ interest in large social issues – regardless of any direct benefit,” the report said.
It found millennials were showing “significantly increased interest” in causes that impacted minority, marginalised or disenfranchised groups or people.
They were most interested in causes that promoted equity, equality and opportunity.
The report also found the cause-engagement actions of millennials in the first quarter of 2017 had increased and intensified as compared to their actions in 2016.
“Intensity is growing in new actions of demonstrating, protesting, petitioning and contacting representatives,” the report said.
“They’re engaged on the national scale at times, but mostly through local channels (on behalf of a larger social issue).
“Volunteering and giving is increasing, as thoughtful and meaningful engagement strategies are being created to support important causes in jeopardy of being removed or denigrated (through strategic giving and volunteering and other work).”
One interviewee said they would be “hard pressed” to think of a single friend who was not more politically active post-election than pre-election.
“I think that activity looks different,” she said.
“I don’t like crowds, but I went to … a local rally for the Muslim community and to the Women’s March in Washington.”
Another interviewee said: “I never thought I would be someone who would go to a demonstration or a protest, and I have been to demonstrations and protests post-election. I marched in Washington and I’m very proud of it.
“Post-election, I’ve probably called my representatives a couple times a week, versus a couple of times in my life before, and I’m not necessarily calling about things that directly impact me.
“This election really drilled home that there is no such thing as an issue bigger than one of us.”
The data collected thus far will be used to shape the remaining two parts of the research.
The full 2017 Millennial Impact Report is scheduled to be published in March 2018.