In a 2007 article for The New York Times, journalist and author Thomas Friedman referred to millennials as “members of Generation Q” – meaning they were the quiet, inactive generation as far as social issues were concerned. Put this description alongside the “self-centered and lazy” labels seen all too often in media headlines of the past decade, and one would have believed that this new wave of American adults could never be counted on to lift their heads from their devices to think about anyone or anything else.
Little did most people realize that these young Americans were beginning to use those devices and other burgeoning technologies to set the world of cause engagement on its ear. Whether they yet recognized it or not, causes would be forced to appeal to this age group, so understanding their intrinsic motivations was vital to their future.When Jean Case and the Case Foundation team looked at these issues in 2008, they realized little research had been done on millennials at the time and even less on how they engaged with causes, social good and movement building – but people did want to learn more. Thus, the Case Foundation launched a decade of research to do just that.
10 years of research for The Millennial Impact Report – which created the largest body of data and analysis on how U.S. millennials interact with causes – have led to this report, which demonstrates why and how the nation’s youngest generation of adults has engaged in doing good,how they have changed philanthropy, what they expect of the public, private, nonprofit and government sectors in addressing societal challenges and the consequences of ignoring their powerful influence.
10 Years Looking Back shares the report authors' analysis, key takeaways and recommendations in a way that helps nonprofits and causes better understand this exceedingly important, vibrant generation – one whose voice is rising ever louder and clearer.
While this report provides key findings that shed a light on the ways that the millennial generation participates in major movements and causes, it is also designed to outline a broader approach that can be used to continue asking questions and improving the ability of socially conscious businesses and organizations to work with young people.
Whether in spite or because of their youth, millennials have created new ways to bring about real changes in society over the last decade, and we suspect that new waves of young people will continue to drive even greater change. The key purpose of this report is to inform practitioners about the opportunities to discard a one-size-fits-all mentality and adopt more responsive models of constituent engagement to better meet young cause enthusiasts where they are.
"We hope one thing becomes clear:" says Case Foundation CEO Jean Case, "you need to constantly engage young people in your cause. Social issues, technology and culture will only continue to change at an accelerated rate. We have to be nimble, curious and constantly asking ourselves how to improve our approaches and how effectively we are working in partnership with young people toward a shared mission.
The same old methods of engagement just won’t cut it anymore."