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Mobilizing Millennials

February 21, 2017

There has been so much written about Millennials – what they think, how they act, what they buy – that it must be the most researched and analyzed generation yet. So, it’s not often that I come across new insights into their connection with the social responsibility work of companies. But, recently I’ve noticed a few articles that relate to Millennials and their participation in community service.

From an Americans for the Arts public participation in the arts survey:

  • 82 percent of Millennials attended an arts event last year, and 68 were personally involved in arts making (such as ceramics, painting, quilting, writing, poetry and dancing) – both significantly higher than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Elders.
  • 70 percent of Millennials agree that the arts help them understand other cultures better -- higher than other generations and the national average of 62 percent and 57 percent of Millennials strongly consider whether a travel destination is rich in the arts, compared to the national average of 43 percent.
  • 33 percent of Millennials donated money to an arts or cultural organization last year – significantly higher than Gen Xers (27 percent), Baby Boomers (23 percent) and Elders (24 percent).

Likewise, from a recent posting on Millennials and nostalgia in

  • Studies show that talking about, looking at, and physically replicating images of the past helps resolve Millennial’s anxiety about experiencing change during a time of instability.
  • The majority of young urbanites agree that their city should renovate historic buildings to best retain their character while making them more usable while less than two in ten admit to admiring modern architecture.
  • According to a study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Millennials support preservation at almost the exactly the same rate as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

In a recent blog posting on entitled, “Why Obsessing about Volunteer Participation Gets You Nowhere with Millennials,” the author argues that companies are focusing on the wrong things when trying to engage Millennials in community service:

  • According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, one-third of Millennials surveyed said that their company’s volunteer policies affected their decision to apply for a job, 39 percent said that it influenced their decision to interview, and 55 percent said that these policies played into their decision whether to accept an offer.
  • However, while Millennials are 44 percent more likely to volunteer if a supervisor does, they are 65 percent more likely to volunteer if other co-workers participate. They’re 27 percent more likely to donate to a cause if their manager does, but 46 percent more likely to donate if a co-worker asks them to. The higher up an individual is on the organizational chart, the less influence he or she seems to have on motivating Millennial employees to engage in giving and volunteering.
  • 79 percent of Millennial employees who did not participate in a company-wide giving campaign still donated to a cause outside of the workplace.

So, what are the lessons for CSR professionals here?

Millennials want to participate in their communities, and they have some of the same interests that older generations do. But, they want to do so on their own terms. They care more about causes and impact than they do institutions and outputs. Driving participation rates – whether they are in giving or volunteering – may be counterproductive. Focusing on the impact that Millennials can –and do – have through these community activities is far more persuasive than simply counting them as participants. And, engaging co-workers as role models and advocates can be more effective than focusing on senior level champions, as important as these might be.

If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.  


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