A couple of years ago I read a book called Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement. The first time I ever heard of the book was when the author was standing right in front of me, about to deliver her keynote address at a day conference where I was presenting. She started talking, and I was instantly engaged. I only took my attention away to scan the room and take note of how the nonprofit leaders were taking it all in. In a college town where nonprofits are constantly dealing with Millennials, I was curious what they felt, if they were ready to take on the challenges of truly engaging these individuals, and what I, as a person who encourages students to become engaged, could do to best prepare them. Even though I was intently focused on her speech, I felt guilty. I was sitting in this audience, having only paid enough attention to the portion of the schedule that pertained to me, had no clue who she was (much less even read her book), and working with Millennials is my job! Engaging others in nonprofit work is a topic that is so exciting to me and a part of my every day life at work, that the learner in me would have purchased, read, and prepared questions for her ahead of time had I known she would be there. A lesson learned for next time.
I am a millennial, I advise millennials, and I work with many nonprofits who struggle to work with millennials. I see it every day, college students who are looking for jobs that are not only meaningful to them, but that have a deeply positive impact on society. I see their desire, their passion, and their struggles.
This book put into words a lot of things I knew, but maybe couldn’t articulate, and gave me a whole new wealth of knowledge that I had not even considered. If you have yet to read the book, you should. Saratovsky and Feldmann talk about the four generations in the workplace, the cycle of engagement, and the future.
Generalizing any generation is obviously hard, but through their research and the research of others, they discuss 5 generalities that are present within Millennials. They are:
- Digitally Connected: They’ve grown up with news at the touch of a button, and they are constantly connected to their networks and friends. This can often be seen as self-absorbed or shallow, but it’s their mode of expression.
- Creative: They get joy from the opportunity to deliver information in new and innovative ways.
- Solution-Centered: They want to generate solutions to pressing social issues. They want to be a part of the solution, not just a bystander.
- Self-Organized: Connectedness is key. They bring networks together for a particular cause.
- Open and Transparent: Millennials want to know what is going on. All the time. They want answers to their questions, and they accept feedback on how they perform.
All of this resurfaced in my mind, and prompted this post, because a couple of months ago I stumbled upon an article in the Huffington Post about building your workforce with Millennials. Employers need to be thinking about these things to truly be prepared for this generation of civic-minded individuals.
The 2014 Millennial Impact Report by consulting firm Achieve, gives us some insight as to what impact Millennials are having. According to the report:
- 47% volunteered in the past month
- 87% donated to a nonprofit organization in 2013
- 57% wanted to see more company-wide volunteer opportunities through their employer (company-wide volunteer days, sabbaticals, performing charitable projects with a department or team).
This shows us that not only do nonprofits need to be shifting their views on how to engage volunteers, donors, and new employees, but the for-profit sector has huge opportunities to connect as well. By taking in this data, companies can see how important engaging in social issues are to this generation.
Nonprofits and for-profits have to adapt, there’s no way out of it. Luckily for me, I get to work with the wonderful students that are causing the workforce to change in a way that further supports the social issues our community faces.
….but there’s more!
Not only are we changing workforce culture, we are also reshaping charitable giving. NPR posted an article last year about the impact Millennials are having on donations through online giving, and the changes we are seeing among generations. Millennials are often referred to as a selfish generation, when in fact, it’s just the opposite. In a survey conducted by World Vision-44 percent of all adults believe older people are more likely to give to charity than younger people. And, only 7 percent believe today’s young people are more generous than previous generations, but in reality, 56 percent of men ages 18-34 have given a charitable gift, versus 36 percent of older men (ages 35 and above).
Millennials are not only giving more, they are giving in new ways. Crowdfunding, a digital platform for raising money, is being used all across nonprofits and social enterprises. See Fundly or donate.ly as examples. Millennials don’t do things the same way as previous generations. Most students who come across my office don’t even know how to write a check, the dollar amount is written on the “to” line, the signatures are left blank, etc. So why not go with it? Let them use their platforms and continue to support charities in innovative ways.
The workforce, both for and non-profit, are finding new ways to adapt and embrace the generational changes. If you aren’t, you should get on board fast!