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Millennials Are Altering Models of Giving

28 September 2017 at 8:24 am
Wendy Williams
Millennials are taking more direct, less muted action according to a new US report that claims “2016 may have been the lull before the storm” for cause engagement.

Wendy Williams | 28 September 2017 at 8:24 am


Millennials Are Altering Models of Giving
28 September 2017 at 8:24 am

Millennials are taking more direct, less muted action according to a new US report that claims “2016 may have been the lull before the storm” for cause engagement.

The Millennial Impact Report is an annual study of millennials’ cause engagement, from Achieve in partnership with the Case Foundation, which has examined the subject through a new lens each year since 2009.

The latest study, phase two of The Power of Voice: A New Era of Cause Activation and Social Issue Adoption, found the US was “witnessing the rise of what may become the most vocal generation in nearly half a century”.

According to the latest research those surveyed reported taking more than 13,000 individual actions for causes and social issues.

In the opening to the report Achieve president and founder Derrick Feldmann said millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, had affected more than just the not-for-profit sector with their “unique brand of social good and issue engagement”.

“They have changed how the government responds with new social issue policies. They have changed the culture at corporate America to stand up for the disenfranchised and address the challenges within our communities. They are changing how nonprofits are defining philanthropy,” Feldmann said.

“This generation is more than an idle voice. They are a true force for social good that goes beyond the biggest philanthropist in the world because with their actions they can organise, drive awareness and influence the behavior of giving by other generations like never before.

“Millennials are pushing the convergence of traditional philanthropy methods and online activism. We have seen the rise of new technologies that expand the social issue interests of a few into becoming the causes of the many.”

In the 2015 report, Cause, Influence and The Next Generation Workforce, researchers found millennial engagement in causes was moving from cursory interest to activism, reflecting “a maturation of the generation’s inherent desire to do good”.

In the following year, which coincided with the presidential election, the team hypothesized that political ideologies and heightened attention to social problems would increase cause-related activity during this time. However they found the contrary to be true.

The 2016 report showed millennial behaviors appeared to be far more muted and passive than they had anticipated, which led the researchers to change their approach.

The 2017 research 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.

Phase one, which was released in June, found the evolving political and social climate was changing the cause behavior of millennials.

According to phase two, “2016 may have been the lull before the storm”.

“Where cause-related millennial activity has increased, it’s increased substantially,” the report said.

It found while involvement with causes overall remained fairly steady from last year, millennials who have been most passionate about causes and social issues (as evidenced by their behavior) have considerably increased their activity.

Other key findings, based on a representative sample of 3,000 respondents, included:

  • Millennials in America believe the U.S. is going in the wrong direction or aren’t sure (71 per cent), while fewer than a third (29 per cent) believe it’s going in the right direction. Nearly half (49 per cent) of survey respondents were unsatisfied or extremely unsatisfied with the president.
  • Millennials think that voting is important. Sixty-six percent believe it will lead to the change they want to see; 71 per cent identify it as a form of activism; 77 per cent say that it is the duty of every citizen; and 65 per cent of respondents reported voting in the last election.
  • Millennials are driven to engage locally more than nationally – though those who do engage nationally do not offset their local activities for national ones.
  • In 2017, the top three issues for millennials were civil rights/discrimination, employment (job creation) and healthcare reform. These interests had changed post-election; from education, healthcare and the economy.

Feldmann said in 2016 they made three key predictions that millennial cause engagement would move from interest to activism; would expand as millennials aged and as causes learned how to connect with them; and would alter traditional models of giving and creating change in the world.

“We believe we were right, based on the research,” he said.

“Millennials are undoubtedly altering today’s models of giving and society’s perceptions of how to create change locally, nationally and globally.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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