CSRinsights: Millennials: A New Generation of Expectations

We hear a lot of buzz about Millennials and that’s probably because, at 95 million strong, they will make up the largest and most educated generation yet. These self-expressive, optimistic and tech-savvy twenty-somethings possess unique values that will play a large role when strategizing employee engagement programs in CSR initiatives.

Although most full-time positions in the workforce are currently filled with the generation before them (Gen X), more than half of Millennials ages 25 to 29 finished their formal schooling and are well on their way to launching careers and families, according to the Pew Research Center. Thus, we strongly suggest that, as more Millennials trickle into the workforce, companies integrate CSR strategies aligning with the generation’s high expectations for the products they purchase, the companies they work for and the nonprofits they support.

Here’s some insight into the giving and volunteering trends of the Millennial generation, which will help you design programs that gauge participation now and years to come.

1. Implement Flexible Volunteer Opportunities

The keyword is flexible. Millennials were raised with more choices than their predecessors. They had multiple menu options in their school cafeteria line (including the Atkins diet preference) and are used to being connected 24/7. It’s no surprise they demand the same flexibility in their volunteer life as well. And, with Millennials leading the highest percentage of those who have volunteered in the past 12 months, perhaps their ‘wants’ are worth listening to (see bar graph to the right).

Collective action is the major volunteer preference among Millennials. In fact, 61 percent of Millennials surveyed said they prefer to volunteer with family and friends, and 56 percent said they prefer to volunteer with organized groups, according to the 2011 Millennial Donors Report. With this in mind, companies should plan to provide tools that support employees’ grassroots efforts in volunteerism by creating sponsored events that create organized group opportunities. Not only does it give them the preferred volunteer environment, but it also helps your employee base learn more about each other and build up a sense of ‘team.’

In addition, the flexibility to allow paid time-off around volunteer opportunities will be key motivators for Millennials. This can be equally rewarding to your organization if the volunteer opportunities are skill-based, capitalizing on personal talents and core business skills.

2. Democratize Philanthropy via Online Giving

Millennials don’t use technology, they require technology. After all, they are the generation that invented and adopted the social network. Their frequent, high use of modern technology distinguishes themselves from every other generation. So, it’s no surprise that when it comes to philanthropy, these digital natives prefer online giving.

When planning employee giving programs, companies will need to consider online giving solutions and how adjacent online tools must be able to gauge participation. Millennials expect optimal user experience, as well as the flexibility to match their giving behaviors that trend in many small gifts rather than single large donations.

Remember, Millennials thrive on flexibility and the ability to choose what works best for them. The more opportunities to give in various ways (large or small, ongoing or moderately) proves to be more effective than hosting one annual campaign with a limited list of organizations to support.

3. Remain Transparent while Increasing Impact

Although Millennials tend to give smaller gifts amongst multiple organizations, they are more likely to give if the organization is transparent with the allocation of donations. In fact, 82 percent of surveyed Millennials would donate if the organization specified how the money will be spent, according to the Millennial Donor Report.

Therefore, it’s important to communicate about nonprofit partnerships and how their dollars will make a difference. By simply understanding why the company supports such organizations, Millennials may be more likely to participate and give. Progressive technology can play a role in offering a solution that connects the company, employees and nonprofit partners to promote a level of trustworthiness these Millennials value.

In addition to transparency, the report also revealed that 71 percent of surveyed participants would be likely to give if they could increase their impact by seeing their gifts matched by another donor. Therefore, matching gift programs will continue to remain popular among Millennials, as long as they clearly see how and where their money is going toward.

4. Let their Voices be Heard (and acted upon)!

Self-expression is a core Millennial value. These confident individuals believe they have much to offer and expect to be treated with respect in the workplace. Give them a platform to express themselves, but most importantly, implement their suggestions. They are a generation that expects actions based on their beliefs and ideas. Remember the 2008 Presidential Election? It is said that Millennials were amongst Barack Obama’s biggest supporters and instrumental in his election into office. If a generation can help elect a President, they have huge expectations to be heard and be acted upon.

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