Like Rodney Dangerfield, millennials get no respect. It’s a stereotype you’re probably all too familiar with: the “spoiled, narcissistic millennial.” When perpetuated, it leads to some sweeping generalizations about the work ethic, mindset, and values of millennials. They are discounted as the entitled generation, criticized for never leaving home, playing electronic games, taking no interest in anything outside themselves, having no manners, and basically thinking they are not compelled to do anything.
In a recent Time magazine article, author Joel Stein wrote: “In the U.S., millennials are the children of baby boomers, who are also known as the Me Generation, who then produced the Me Me Me Generation, whose selfishness technology has only exacerbated.” Stein went on to assert that “this new Me Me Me Generation has become damaged due to an overdose of self-esteem.”
Not TrueHowever, in 2015, no less an organization than IBM came to the defense of the millennial generation when it released a report that overturned these surface-level generalizations proving them to be largely untrue. The report surveyed 1,784 employees across six industries. The millennials cited fairness, transparency and consistency as the top three attributes they look for in a boss and cited too much attention from the boss as annoying and unwanted (inconsistent with the “entitled, overconfident narcissist”).
Nonprofits and MillennialsMillennials recently surpassed baby boomers as the largest generation, numbering around 75.4 million Americans in 2015 versus 74.9 million boomers and about 66 million Gen X’ers. Millennials are reaching what the Boston Consulting Group calls their “peak spending years” and nonprofits are realizing that attracting millennials is critical to sustainability.
The Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report for the first quarter of 2017 researched how changing social issues are affecting millennials’ interest and engagement in cause involvement. The study reports that “cause engagement and giving by millennials increased at the beginning of this year and continues to grow.”
Two Critical Insights1. Juanita James, President of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, advises nonprofits to “understand what’s motivating millennials and how they want to think about philanthropy and not assume they are going to approach it the way previous generations did. We’re seeing that millennials want to have a much more hands-on impact and connect with the work and understand the impact of the work. It’s a more active participation.”
2. Individual millennials have less cash (testified to by the increase in college loans and the decrease in mortgages) than individuals from the baby boomer generation. Nonprofits, however, have learned from Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders that they can access vast amounts of millennial’s cash through crowdfunding. The benefit of micro funding is that nonprofit organizations do not need to spend as much time on an individual donor, taking the risk of stewarding one person for thousands of dollars and potentially having the pledge fall through.