Millennials: The Rise of the Everyday Changemaker

Nearly a decade ago, the Case Foundation declared that the millennial generation (born 1980 to 1999) would fundamentally “change how change is made.” And, indeed they have. Whether it was breaking down traditional organizational structures; leveraging technology to disrupt fundraising, volunteerism and activism; modernizing social networks; or demanding new norms for transparency and impact from organizations; this generation has reshaped the social sector in ways that we could not have anticipated. Now, having disrupted the social sector, millennials no longer fit the traditional definition of a changemaker.

Today, the Foundation in partnership with Achieve, released the final installment of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report, which sought to understand whether a Presidential election context would change how millennials engaged with the causes they support. The Report is part of the larger, and longer term Millennial Impact Project, which seeks to amplify the voices of the millennial generation—more than 75,000—through research, discussions and convenings.

Our hypothesis going into the 2016 Report was that the presidential election would, in fact, change how millennials engaged in and with social causes. But—spoiler alert—after three waves of quantitative surveys and a deeper qualitative post-election survey, the results show it did not. A little counter-intuitive, right? This may have been our favorite Report yet exactly for that reason. The results seemed to challenge everything we thought we knew about this “next greatest generation” of changemakers.

Several top-line surprises from the data, include:

  • Millennials reject labels, and specifically the term “activist;”
  • Millennials identify more as “conservative-leaning” than “liberal-leaning”;
  • Millennials prefer creating change among family and friends, rather than large networks.

This generation may also have one more surprise left in store for us related to voter turnout. Prior to the election there was a great deal of speculation about whether or not millennials would show up to the polls on election day. Exit poll analysis from the 2016 election as reported by CIRCLE  (not affiliated with the Millennial Impact Report) suggests that “young people voted at a similar rate to 2012—close to 50 percent.” And while exit polls should not be considered conclusive, they do offer an early look at voter engagement on election day. What remains to be seen now is more definitive data with specific breakdowns of the demographics of those who actually voted—including geography, education, income etc.—to help us better understand the mindset of this generation of voters. As more definitive data specific to voter turnout is released over the coming months (e.g., the Census Current Population Survey), we will take a fresh look at our survey findings to better understand how millennials did, or did not leverage their power to vote and the impact that had on the election.

And so in the end, the most significant take away from the 2016 Report and the 2016 Election became less about whether this generation turns interest into action, but how this generation turns interest into action. Most notably, unlike older generations, their passion for creating positive change is a part of their everyday lives—influencing what they buy, the clothes they wear and the food they eat. For millennials, taking consistent positive actions every day or week is a fundamental part of their identity. In changing how change is made, members of this generation no longer see themselves as “activists” like their parents, but rather as “everyday changemakers.”

This evolved changemaker still engages in more traditional “activist” activities such as: rallies, crowdfunding and petitions on a variety of issues. At the same time they are also practicing more common day-to-day activities, such as: ordering lunch from a restaurant that sources its ingredients from local farmers; wearing clothing from brands with sustainable supply chains; and, using a ridesharing app to cut down on their carbon footprint.

We also identified three macro conclusions from the research that address the nuances of what it means to be an everyday changemaker:

  • Millennials are interested in specific social issues at the macro level, consistently identifying education, wages, health care, employment and the economy as the areas of most concern to them. They act, however, at the micro level, getting engaged primarily with issues that are or have been close to their personal lives.
  • Millennials are looking to effect change and make a difference through individualistic and personally gratifying action, but are doing so in a way that redefines and eradicates traditional labels.
  • Millennials as a rule don’t have much trust in government to do what’s right. Instead, they put more faith in themselves to create the kind of change they want to see. As a result, they are signing petitions, volunteering for causes, connecting on social media platforms and acting within their own circles as ways to incite change.

What remains to be seen now is how this generation will continue to influence the future of social change, organizations and politics more broadly. For now we are focusing on exploring the following questions:

  • What caused the recent increase in civic and political engagement over the past few months? Does this engagement represent a new level of involvement or is it simply a short-lived reaction to the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election?
  • Can we expect to see an increase in voting during the upcoming mid-term and 2020 Presidential elections?
  • What does success look like when it comes to their efforts to champion the issues they care about the most? What is the relative value of a retweet vs. a change in policy vs. a large turnout at a rally for millennials?
  • Who does this generation believe best represents its interests? Who do they believe is most effective when it comes to championing their interests? Leaders from government, business or nonprofits?

We at the Case Foundation will be watching closely over the course of this year in particular for any shift(s) in millennial engagement trends that may help to answer these questions. Already this year we have seen an acceleration and intensification of social sector engagement across all generations in America, not just among millennials. While we celebrate this everyday changemaking approach, we will watch careful and report on how this generation participates in more traditional forms of civic engagement, such as voting.

All signs point to millennials continuing to support the causes they care about through a wide variety of actions. In an ideal world, as more values based choices become increasingly integrated into everyday life and millennials continue to increase their influence and impact, it is possible that the prioritization and amplification of this ethos will become a global norm, not just a generational one. Organizations, businesses and even governments would be wise to take heed of this growing trend as donors, volunteers, customers and constituents look to their local communities to create the impact they want to have in the world.

Be sure to check back in June for the release of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report at MCON 2017 where we will share new insights on the topic of millennial activism versus advocacy.

Why MCON is THE Must Attend Conference on Millennial Engagement

With just a few weeks left until the sixth annual MCON hits Washington, DC, the Case Foundation and Achieve teams are buzzing with excitement. This year’s gathering is gearing up to be the most impressive yet, uniting nearly 600 cause champions committed to creating change and turning next gen interest into action. With 25 different sessions, more than 45 remarkable speakers, a political town hall, film screenings, parties and a host of networking opportunities over the course of three days, MCON is where social sector leaders unite to mobilize movements. But don’t just take our word for it… here’s a sneak peak at what’s in store and why MCON is the top next gen engagement gathering of the year.

  • A dynamic slate of speakers will take the stage, including our own Jean Case, Gary Knell of National Geographic, Gina Bianchini of Mightybell, Ettore Rossetti of Save the Children, Jeremy Ford of Dell Giving, Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, National Geographci Explorers Erin Spencer and Sylvia Earle, Chris Temple of Living On One, Laurindo Garcia of B-Change, DeRay Mckesson, Kevin Cleary of Clif Bar, Brian Ferguson of the DC Office of Human Rights, Karla Monterroso of CODE2040, Jay Newton-Small of TIME Magazine, restaurateur Jose Andres, Ryan Scott of Causecast, Janine Gianfredi of the U.S. Digital Service, Jesse Moore from the White House, Grammy nominated recording artist Ryan Leslie and many more still to be announced!
  • Enjoy VIP access to National Geographic’s campus in the heart of downtown DC. National Geographic, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888 through geography, archaeology and natural science and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation. While there, attendees can check out the latest exhibitions, interactive experiences and stunning photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers and scientists.
  • Laugh out loud with Funny or Die creators David Litt and Brad Jenkins during their Politics and Humor panel.
  • Tune in to the Political Townhall hosted by the Washington Post to hear from Millennials in government. MCON is partnering with The Washington Post to present an interactive panel discussion on issues that affect the Millennial generation, how political engagement is changing, innovation in the public sector and how to increase Millennial voter turnout.
  • We know you will be hungry over the three days so we’ve partnered with some of the best fast-casual restaurants to keep your bellies full and brain on point. Guests will munch on fare from STK, &Pizza, Shake Shack, Taylor Gourmet and many more throughout the three days.
  • Watch the film screening of “Most Likely To Succeed” the new documentary film on the impact that innovation is having on our economy and the consequences for our country if our education system fails to keep pace. WATCH THE TRAILER
  • Check out the late night Bloc Party on Day Three and closing night celebration in the outdoor courtyard of National Geographic featuring local food trucks, drinks and a surprise live act!
  • Pack your running shoes for a run with Kevin Cleary of Clif Bar & Company, a leading maker of nutritious and organic foods and drinks for people on the go. Meet Kevin for a morning run on Day Three, then catch him on stage later that day as he shares how to build a sustainable brand.
  • Experience a taste of Spain on Day Two at an after party hosted by NYLON and Rock the Vote, with a special guest performance, at the SPAIN Arts & Culture Center featuring the most cutting-edge works of international renowned Spanish artists of our time.
  • Watch the private screening of “Salam Neighbor,” an award-winning feature documentary. As the first filmmakers ever allowed by the United Nations to be given a tent and registered inside a refugee camp, they provide viewers with a never seen look into one of the world’s most pressing crisises. WATCH THE TRAILER
  • Take a break in the MCON Lounge on site at National Geographic and network with other cause enthusiasts who will help you take your initiative to the next level.
  • Enjoy one of the many libations keeping you hydrated throughout the festival including drinks from Boxed Water, Owl’s Brew, Denizens, One Hope Wines, Peet’s Coffee, Heritage Distilling, Port City Brewing and Flying Dog Brewery.
  • Step into the opening night party at Renwick Gallery just across the street from the White House, sponsored by the Case Foundation. The Renwick is home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection and has one of the finest and most extensive collections of its kind.
  • Be one of the first to read the 2016  Action Report released on Day One. Learn about how politics may influence next gen engagement with social causes in this exciting new survey.
  • Attend for free! Yes, free. Are you a student, activist or social entrepreneur that could really benefit from a conference like MCON but you can’t seem to fit it in your budget? Apply for an MCON 2016 scholarship while they’re still available HERE.

Can’t make it to MCON this year? Don’t worry. You can check out the livestream throughout all three days and join the conversation online using #MCON. We can’t wait to have you join us!

5 Tips for Attracting (and Keeping) Millennial Employees

Millennials (those born between 1980-2000) are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and represent more than one in three workers according to Pew Research Center. And while this generation is growing in size, influence and power within the workplace, many employers, managers and HR departments still find it difficult to recruit and retain next gen talent.

For many leaders at organizations around the country, the challenge is in more effectively engaging Millennial employees and in understanding that their passions, interests and ideas are part of their identity—not just at home or with friends, but also at the office. Through the Millennial Impact Project, we have learned that one key way employers can tap into those interests is by integrating them into the organization’s cause- and service-related issues and projects, which resonate well with this generation. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report, which focused primarily on Millennials’ preferences in the workplace, identified the linkage between a company’s cause-related efforts and the interest of and desire by their Millennial employees to engage in those efforts as part of their employment.

In the newly released report by Achieve titled, “Cause, Influence & the Next Generation Workforce – Six-Month Research Update,” researchers built upon their 2014 and 2015 surveys of Millennials and engagement in the workplace and looked specifically at data on company size and cause work programs as a means to foster workplace engagement. Researchers wanted to know in this six-month update: how participation in company cause work programs are influenced by the existing and structuring of such programs; why companies should consider incorporating cause work initiatives earlier in an employee’s tenure; and the importance of companies preventing participation fatigue. (Note: Reports referenced above are sponsored by the Case Foundation.)

My big takeaway for organizations interested in deeper engagement is that offering service opportunities alone is not enough. Organizations that take their engagement a step further and tailor those opportunities with and for next gen employees are more successful at engaging Millennial employees over the long term.

Based on the findings of this research, here are five practical tips that any team manager or leader who wants to better engage their next gen employees can put into practice—today:

Tip #1: Companies should look to establish service initiatives and volunteer opportunities for Millennial employees—not only to be a socially responsible company, but also to foster a service oriented culture that can align with the employees’ passions and will ultimately help to retain Millennial employees and managers.

Tip #2: Executives and managers should make sure to promote the service-related opportunities and foster awareness about those programs available. This will help to ensure that Millennial employees have the opportunity to be fully engaged.

Tip #3: Consider offering incentives to those who participate in the service-related programs. Make sure that they are incentives that would be appreciated by the employees and managers alike, and are aligned with the service opportunity (e.g., time allowances for staff to volunteer with an organization of their choice).

Tip #4: Consult team members at all professional levels to ensure that the organization’s engagement strategies and offerings resonate with the next gen employees. Suggesting employees donate to an organization selected by the company—without input from the staff—could likely result in disinterested participation and lackluster support from next gen team members.

Tip #5: Engage with employees and involve them early on during their careers with your organization (e.g., orientation or within the first few months). When leaders did not engage employees early on, it often took one to two years for employees to become involved with cause related activities led by the employer.

And finally, as noted in the report: “To truly engage—and retain—their Millennial employees and managers in cause work initiatives for years to come, employers must take the time to learn about what causes employees value, how they want to make an impact, what influences them and what challenges them to continue participating.”

Do you have a tip for how to attract and retain Millennial talent through service related activities? Share it with us on Twitter using @CaseFoundation and #Millennials.

My (too) Close Encounter With Virtual Reality and How it Sparked Imagining VR for Good

In the spirit of learning, one of our staff ordered a Google Cardboard virtual reality (VR) viewer and brought it to a recent staff meeting for us to experience. The story we were watching to test out this new technology was The New York Times’ groundbreaking three-part series on the plight of refugee children, a series that I had previously read about, but had not yet had the chance to view. In “The Displaced,” viewers follow along on the harrowing journey of Chuol, a South Sudanese boy (only two years older than my eldest child).

In my excitement to try out this storytelling tech, I threw my hand up like an enthusiastic fifth grader would. My colleague reached across the conference room table to double check that I was holding the iPhone and VR goggles correctly as I adjusted the headphones and hit play. Immediately I was walking through a room, presumably an intro to the NYT VR series. I looked all around amazed that it really did feel like I was in that room, then the article title came up and I was thrust into Chuol’s story. It felt like I was really there, floating in a roughhewn wooden boat in the middle of a swamp under cloudy skies, and it suddenly hit me that I knew what the surrounding reeds were hiding: women and children in flight from unspeakable atrocities.

My pulse soared, my breath grew instantly shallow, my eyes burned and I began to sob. The virtual reality of Chuol’s actual reality was so vivid that it overwhelmed me. I pulled off the headphones and apologized through tears to my coworkers, some of whom had been trying to capture a fun video to share about our first collective experience with VR. Instead I’m sure they recorded my face unfolding in horror of what I knew lay ahead for that little boy.

It was too close for comfort, but maybe that was the point. My head and my heart were already hooked by the story that had received widespread coverage in the days leading up to this experience and the VR experience sealed it inextricably. I’ll never forget that moment of “seeing” through Chuol’s eyes. Short of a plane ticket and dropping into a conflict zone, the experience could not have been more authentic.

Marketers of all stripes will undoubtedly tap into this possibility of authenticity to attract, engage and retain their target audiences. But my hope is that we will also see VR storytelling as a method to win hearts and minds for good.

The 2013 Millennial Impact Research report found that 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money for causes they care about. What better way to capture a broader group of donors than to let them have a virtual experience around a cause? Potential donors could “explore” a pristine marine reserve before it has been destroyed to understand why it matters. “Listening in” on a prognosis meeting for a cancer patient might help articulate the intricacies of fighting that disease. Perhaps hearing a VR testimonial of a client that benefitted from post-incarceration training to land a new job might convey the need to support an effort typically difficult to fund.

Likewise, given the ubiquity of mobile technology around the globe and the exquisite simplicity and lower cost of a cardboard viewer (as one of many VR methods), imagine the possibilities for good beyond donations of money. A business owner in an emerging market could virtually walk the storeroom floor and peer around the globe to get some ideas on how to improve sales rather than examining floor plans; a student could augment their studies of ancient societies by “traipsing” along timeworn streets without needing to afford overseas studies; a homebound person could “climb” treacherous trails to visit impossibly constructed temples on mountain ridges. By using VR, people’s lives could be enriched by having access to knowledge and experience that was previously out of reach.

My incredibly visceral and brief experience with VR was more than enough to convince me of the power of this technology as it begins to enjoy widespread use. I can’t wait to see what the clever do-gooders of the world do next with this medium. Though, next time I strap on a VR viewer I might choose a less heartrending topic.

Interested in using #VR4Good? Share your ideas for this emerging technology with us on Twitter.

Header photo credit: Flickr user Nan Palmero, used via Creative Commons.

Business as a Force for Social Good

This post was written by J.D. Brady on behalf of the Case Foundation:

At the Case Foundation, we believe impact investing is an excellent example of how business and philanthropy can work hand-in-hand to drive social change. We applaud the work of for-profit enterprises that deliver both a financial and social return, and we encourage investors to support the growth of these companies.

J.P. Morgan’s Nicholas Tedesco is doing just that–creating a bridge between for-profit and non-profit worlds. He joined us at MCON 2015—our annual event that brings together thought leaders from across sectors to explore new ideas regarding engagement with the Millennial generation. As a Senior Philanthropic Advisor in the J.P. Morgan Philanthropy Centre, Nicholas helps clients achieve their philanthropic goals. Before joining J.P. Morgan, Nicholas was with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In that role, Nicholas helped launch the Giving Pledge, an undertaking that encourages the world’s wealthiest people to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic endeavors. To date, nearly 200 philanthropists have signed the pledge.

The Case Foundation sat down with Nicholas to discuss the Millennial generation’s approach to investing, where the impact investing sector is headed and what challenges leaders in the philanthropic space.

CF: How do you see Millennials engaging in philanthropy?

NT: It has been widely talked about that we are in the midst of the greatest wealth transfer in history–-the next generation will inherit an estimated $59 trillion over the next 40 years and are positioned to be some of the most influential donors in history. We are seeing some interesting trends among Millennials with respect to their giving. It is starting earlier: wealth is being made at a much earlier age and on a much larger scale than ever before. And people are looking to give back much earlier. They are taking a venture approach–-they are looking to address large-scale social problems with a more hands-on and results-oriented approach. They are also willing to experiment and test new approaches and are more apt to employ nontraditional methods like impact investing.

CF: What is the most interesting thing that you’ve seen in the last year regarding impact investing?

NT: One of the most interesting things I have seen in the last year is the rise in popularity of social impact bonds. Although they are still largely in their infancy, social impact bonds are gaining traction. Utah is spearheading a program that will bring a lot of attention to the “pay for success” model, as are California and Oregon. Although the model will likely never be widely adopted due to its reliance on the government, it is shedding light on the importance of impact metrics.

CF: Is the impact investing movement growing? Do you think we’re at a tipping point?

NT: I absolutely believe that the impact investing movement is growing–-particularly on the west coast. Its core tenants appeal to younger donors who are eager to tackle longstanding social issues with a multipronged approach. We are also seeing an increased awareness among the business community that social and economic returns do not have to be mutually exclusive and decoupled. I do not think we are at a tipping point (yet). We need a few more years to allow more deals to surface, investments to mature, and thought leaders (like Jean and Steve Case) to inform the general public. Impact investing is still a largely unknown and young movement and people are reluctant to be a pioneer.

CF: What are the greatest challenges philanthropic leaders are addressing today?

NT: One of the greatest challenges philanthropy–-as a discipline–-is facing is how to define and measure impact. Americans gave a record $335 billion to charitable causes in 2013, yet it is hard to quantify the impact of those gifts. There are very few philanthropists who are equipped to adequately assess the yield of their grants–-with a large number of donors simply trusting their grantees to execute a successful strategy. However, we are seeing an increased focus on measurement and evaluation from philanthropists at all levels, and as a result, we are seeing donors who are much more engaged with the organizations that they choose to fund.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring speakers from MCON 2015. Check back to learn about more innovators and leaders from the private, nonprofit and public sectors. Also, be sure to check out the 2015 Millennial Impact Report