After the past two years of nearly every sphere of society being upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is wondering what will become our new normal. Millennials, with their voices, their involvement, and their power, are shaping it.
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 we at Points of Light set out to do. Our team, in partnership with research and design firm INFLUENCE|SG, conducted a study on civic engagement among the millennial generation to gather some crucial data points. While it’s impossible to define any group of 72 million Americans, this data gave us insight on how best to partner with millennials and where they stand as far as civic engagement.
Findings from the research were illuminating. Almost 50% of millennials believe more in civic engagement now than before the pandemic, 69% 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 this desire to be civically engaged? Here are five things to include in your outreach (and a few to leave out.)
- Speak to the impacted individual. The research shows that the millennial generation isn’t getting involved simply from a place of helping others, but rather feels personally affected by the issues and wants to channel that concern into action. Use the “you” and “we” pronouns in your messaging to show that you recognize their personal experience and identification with an issue, and that you’re in it with them.
- Demonstrate your desire for real change. Millennials are masters at spotting lip service with no action behind it. 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.
- Ask how you can partner with them. Avoid soliciting contributions and involvement. Instead, open a two-way dialogue about what you as an organization can do to equip and empower millennials for social change. Many millennials
- Hone 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. And 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 this year. You don’t need to have 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 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 than swooping in to “save” them. Check out Points of Light’s ongoing series, in partnership with Morehouse College, Listen. Learn. Act to End Racism, which elevates expert voices from the racial equity movement as well as partner organizations, grassroots organizers and everyday people.