Millennials Are Changing the Landscape of Social Change, Report Finds

Millennials Are Changing the Landscape of Social Change, Report Finds

Millennials are not only trying to change the world, they are changing the way social change is realized, a report from Achieve and the Case Foundation finds.

Final Report: Understanding How Millennials Engage in Causes and Social Issues (29 pages, PDF) summarizes findings from a decade of surveys conducted after the Millennial Impact Project was launched in 2009 to explore how Americans born between 1980 and 2000 engage with causes. According to the report, millennials view all their assets — time, skills, talent, money, voice, purchasing power, and ability to network — as being equally valuable; operate as "everyday changemakers" whose social engagement ranges from bidding in online charity auctions to buying from and investing in socially responsible companies; and believe that traditional activism — including voting, petitions, and protests — is the most influential way to bring about change.

The surveys also found that millennials are more likely to be motivated to give in support of social issues or causes they are passionate about rather than to specific organizations; seek to create social change through collective action and networks; are more focused on supporting others and the greater good than on partisan politicking; and have little trust in governments' ability to address key issues such as poverty, racial equity, and college affordability.

To advance the change they seek, millennials take action across various sectors and platforms — public, private, and nonprofit; online and offline. They also adjust their engagement as volunteers, donors, protestors, and/or voters based on the issue, opportunity, and political, economic, and social climate. And they believe that all actions, big and small, matter.

"This necessitates a brand new approach to donor cultivation by practitioners, one organized around the way these constituents view themselves and their contributions," the report's authors write. "Departments within an organization must consistently work together to create opportunities for engagement, and managers must ensure an environment of teamwork rather than competition for these individuals."

To effectively engage millennials as supporters, the report recommends that organizations focus on small acts of participation, fine-tune their employee giving programs, tell stories that invoke empathy, demonstrate how individuals can be part of a solution through their support, and reinforce millennial engagement through peer recognition.

"[B]y acting as force multipliers for the world of cause engagement and social good, and by matching their actions with the times, millennials are changing the communities around them," Case Foundation CEO Jean Case writes in a blog post. "The nonprofits and companies that successfully engage this group and respond effectively to this new way of pushing for social change will ultimately be better positioned to harness the energy and passion of this large generation."

"Final Report: Understanding How Millennials Engage in Causes and Social Issues." Achieve and Case Foundation Report 07/26/2019. Jean Case. "Key Takeaways From a Decade of Millennial Research." Case Foundation Blog Post 07/26/2019.