I’ve been quite content to simply ignore all the chatter about Millennials.
It seems reminiscent of the obsession and stereotyping about Boomers, which when it came down to it, didn’t reflect the Boomers I know and also didn’t impact me directly. Perhaps there was a tinge of jealousy since my own generation – GenX—hasn’t gotten the same analysis. Regardless, it didn’t catch my attention until recently.
During an internal discussion about trends in Corporate Social Responsibility, some VolunteerMatch staff started talking about Millennials and how their approach to changing the world differs from other generations. There’s a nice infographic about “The Next Generation of American Giving” from Blackbaud that sums up some of the preferences, social media habits and giving differences between generations.
“Fast Future” author David Burstein describes Millennials’ approach to social change as “pragmatic idealism,” a deep desire to make the world a better place combined with an understanding that doing so requires building new institutions and working inside and outside existing institutions.
Already we’re seeing swift changes related to how Millennials are interacting with existing organizational structures: by pulling more and more companies into CSR, and also pushing the boundaries of community engagement by creating B corps. But taking it one step further, how will Millennials change the very essence of long-running corporate philanthropy programs around the globe once THEY are the CEOs and decision-makers? Now that has piqued my interest.
According to CECP’s Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition, direct cash donations still dominated at 47% of total giving in 2012, but non-cash contributions are growing at a faster rate of 10% or more each year since 2008. In addition, “paid-release-time employee volunteer programs were offered by 70% of companies in 2012, compared to just 53% of companies before the global recession.” Certainly some of this stems from slow economic growth, but I’d argue that the next generation, as leaders, is already playing a role.
I predict that companies will finally awaken from their complacency and pledge-drives to find exciting experiments with collective impact and real community action. For those larger institutions that have been the self-appointed leaders in the “space” and whose programs don’t go very far beyond giving money or celebrating their stale annual events – watch out. Just looking at the 200+ companies that I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my tenure here at VolunteerMatch, there is something exciting in the air.
It’s a no brainer that technology will play a key role for any organization interested in creating scalable solutions to the globe’s problems. VolunteerMatch is a great place to start – albeit an obvious one at this point. The web’s largest network for volunteer engagement with turn-key solutions for companies, VolunteerMatch facilitates the self-led, community-based engagement that Millennials really get jazzed about. I’m not on the sales team, just proud of the work we do. And I see us as a perfect partner for the new generation of engagement professionals whose employees make it clear they want a deeper, more integrated program.
So, Millennials, I’m ready for you to be in charge and excited to see where you take things. Hey, just promise to take me with you?