America’s millennials are poised to reshape society to a greater degree than any generation since the Greatest Generation. As 2 million baby boomers retire each year, millennials are projected to constitute 75% of the workforce. For businesses and nonprofits looking to navigate perpetually “unprecedented” waters, the key to future success is understanding this generation and engaging with it successfully.
That’s exactly what Points of Light sets out to do. Our team, in partnership with research and design firm INFLUENCE|SG, conducted a study on millennials and civic engagement to gather some crucial data points. While it’s impossible to define a group of 72 million Americans, this data did provide insight into trends around how to partner with millennials and where they stand with civic engagement.
The Big Picture on Millennials and Civic Engagement
Findings from our research showed that almost 50% of millennials believe more in civic engagement now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty-nine percent are more likely to volunteer and 85% think people should help their community and the world.
With few exceptions, “spent time learning more about the issue” was the number-one action millennials took to support social issues.
Millennials are prime for civic impact and are actively looking to feel connected to your mission. So how can you better communicate with this generation and leverage their desire to do social good? Here are five things to include in your outreach and a few to leave out.
Speak directly to your audience.
The research shows that the millennial generation is motivated by more than simply helping others. They need to feel personally affected by the issues and want to channel that concern into action.
Use the “you” and “we” in your messaging to show that you recognize their personal experience and identification with an issue, and that you’re in it with them. This tactic is effective across all of your collateral, from social media to ad copy to your newsletters and annual report.
Demonstrate your desire for real change.
Millennials are masters at spotting lip service with. Instead of catchy slogans or gimmicky challenges, offer data points about what you’ve accomplished so far and what you hope to achieve with millennial involvement.
This generation does its research, and numbers can tell a strong story. Regular updates, as well as a comprehensive annual update, can help build trust among your millennial supporters.
Ask how you can partner with them.
Avoid soliciting contributions and involvement. Instead, open an honest and open two-way dialogue about what you as an organization can do to equip and empower millennials for social change.
Many millennials engage primarily through social media, so take note of the stats around volunteers and social media for your organization. Invite dialogue and seek feedback on the issues themselves, your organization’s proposed solutions, and any other ideas that this important demographic might offer to move the needle forward.
Home in on skills-based volunteer opportunities.
According to a 2020 Fidelity Charitable Report, 65% of millennial respondents volunteered by “using a specific skill,” significantly more than Gen X or baby boomer respondents. Millennials are eager to apply skill sets that they already use (or don’t get the chance to use) in the workplace toward issues that they care about.
Since so many volunteers today are virtual, it’s a good idea to make volunteer roles in communication, marketing, technology, accounting or other skill areas widely accessible.
Provide learning opportunities.
Remember, learning about the issue was the top-ranked way that millennials practiced civic engagement. You don’t need an existing program or a solution to a social issue in order to get this generation involved. Provide learning opportunities by hosting forums or webinars with experts in the field to help educate everyone about the issue at hand.
This option can also help build an asset-based approach to volunteering, where volunteers support community members from a place of greater awareness and honor their lived experience rather by working with the community rather than “saving” it. To get started, check out Points of Light’s Civic Life Today series, comprised of nine digital magazine issues that each focus on one element of the Points of Light Civic Circle.