Millennials Are Motivated by Mission, Not by Organization

September 3, 2019 — While most nonprofits recognize that Millennials approach causes in ways that differ from previous generations, a newly issued report documents those differences and advises organizations to discard a "one-size-fits-all mentality."

Millennials—generally those born 1980-2000—"have created new ways to bring about real changes in society over the last decade, and we suspect that new waves of young people will continue to drive even greater change," according to Understanding How Millennials Engage with Causes and Social Issues, published by The Millennial Impact Report, based on data collected over the last 10 years.

In summary, the analysis concludes that Millennials:
  • See all of their assets as equal, are everyday change makers, and believe in the power of activism.

  • Care about social issues rather than institutions, using their collective voice, and supporting others and the greater good more than ineffective partisan politicking. 90% are motivated to give by a compelling mission, not an organization.

  • Engage with causes through a range of sectors and industries by employing innovative approaches and through actions both big and small.

  • Are influenced largely by their peers. 44% of Millennial employees said they were more likely to volunteer if their supervisor participate, but 65% said they were more likely to volunteer if their co-workers participate.
"Doing good and challenging the status quo has been an important proposition for every generation, and the notion thrives with Millennials," the report notes, but they don’t want to be categorized as an annual fund donor or an event volunteer.

The report suggests actions organizations can take to engage with Millennials. Among them:
  • Fine-Tune Employee Giving Programs. Employers must realize that a) the longer a Millennial is with the company, the more likely they are to give instead of volunteer, b) Millennials are most influenced by their work peers and immediate managers, and c) Millennial employees are motivated by competition.

  • Create Easier Entry. Causes and nonprofits can pick up on natural change maker tendencies to turn everyday doing-good actions into bigger movements with broader impact on issues that matter to Millennials. By lowering the barrier to entry, for example by holding educational sessions about impact investing, you can start to make real change snowball.

  • Demonstrate Added Value. Overtly demonstrate your added value ”“ how an individual can most effectively be part of a solution by working through your organization rather than on their own. To do this, causes must create opportunities designed specifically for what Millennials want to get out of their cause involvement.

  • Design Deliberately. Offer advocacy opportunities more thoughtfully and deliberately, with Millennials’ strong peer-to-peer networks in mind. When they learn about your cause from their friends, make sure they’ll learn about you, too. Monitor and contribute to these digital conversations ”“ not with a heavy “here we are” message, but as a provider of facts and context. Then create engagements that involve peer groups, such as volunteer opportunities, committees, task forces, building projects.

  • Reinforce Support Through Peer Recognition. Acknowledgment, peer recognition and the pleasure of joining strengthen an individual’s belief in an issue. It follows the ideal that if everyone around you believes in the same cause you do, it must be important. This is especially true with Millennials, who rely so much on their peers for information and opinions. Consider recognition via social media, especially.