Generation Give: Make It Personal

Filed in For Profit, Millennials, Non-Profit, Plurals, Social Enterprise by on October 11, 2013 8 Comments

How A New Generation Will Contribute To The Causes They Care About

They’re not interested in structures or institutions, but youth sure are eager to support the causes they’re passionate about.  In fact, this new wave of philanthropists — we’re dubbing “Generation Give” — believe social change is as important as profit (42% of youth under 30, as compared to 26% of adults over 45).

In addition, with their demand of social responsibility, products-for-purpose, and corporate philanthropy, the boundaries between nonprofit, social enterprise and business are blurring.  Stakeholders are holding organizations more accountable for the work they do in return for the dollars spent, donated and invested.

Because Millennials, and their younger cohorts, are the first two generations of Americans to grow-up alongside cause-marketing, they’re quick to identify authentic social impact commitments over “good-washing” or “green-washing.”

For this reason, securing the public’s trust and money in support of a cause is not as simple as putting a ribbon on it or donating a portion of proceeds.  According to Cone’s 2013 Social Impact Survey, “claims of caring are no longer sufficient, either to differentiate or make a difference.”  Young stakeholders in particular, want to be turned into partners.  This means, they want to shoulder some of the responsibility towards making the world a better place with a personal contribution.

Since Millennials and Plurals are defining themselves less by what they give or buy, and more by how their spending reflects who they are, organizations need to structure better stakeholder contribution opportunities for youth.  Unlike older generations, young people will really only engage the brands that engage them.

While the amount of personal contribution varies by generation, it also varies based on what brand managers give their stakeholders to do!  For example, organizations that embrace crowd-sourcing (ie co-creation/collaboration) can give their stakeholders a personal contribution opportunity to “weigh in” prior to a new product or service launch. Organizations that create crowd-funding mechanisms (ie spend/donate/invest) can facilitate personal contributions through the vote of the dollar.  Both of these methods heighten awareness to individual and collective impact, which is important to youth.

Contrary to popular media portrayals of a spoiled, entitled and egocentric generation, youth are both extraordinary “contributors” and “givers.”  Sure, the bulk of wealth still largely resides with the Boomers, but American Millennials account for an annual $1.3 trillion of current U.S. consumer spending or 27% of the total.  Even pre-teen Plurals (aka Generation Z) have a weekly $11 dollar spend on average, or $43-billion a year.

From a standpoint of philanthropic spending, 60% of Millennials give an average of $481 per year across 3.3 charities and 90% of Plurals also give to charity, though in smaller donation amounts than their older cohorts.  Individually youth are not significant donors perhaps.  But collectively, they represent a significant source of new revenue.

That said, over the next 30-to-40 years, as Boomers transfer $30-trillion to their children, it won’t only be nonprofits that benefit from this transfer of wealth.  Generation Give will also be contributing to profit-for-purpose, B-corporations and social enterprise organizations which show social impact and know how to structure meaningful contribution opportunities.

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Comments (8)

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  1. Bob Fox says:

    Involvement in personalized social giving was probably stimulated by the charitable pledges
    made by Bill Gates, Warren Buffet & others. This helped establish a new mind set among youth.

    Advertisers have recognized youth personal involvement with Brand and are increasingly
    shifting expenditures to social media venues – away from traditional media,

  2. Chris St. John says:

    Will be fascinating to see what sort of innovative new charities emerge as a result of these trends, and whether they are able to sustain the sort of longevity that allows for long term impact. We grew up with March of Dimes, The Salvation Army, The United Way… These institutions have been around for decades, and have expanded their original charters.

    It will be equally fascinating to see how these established charities will adapt to engage this emerging generation.

  3. Prissi Cohen says:

    I’m happy to read this article and hope it to be true. I’d ask what age we are discussing here. As a mom of a 13 year old, I like to believe this will be how she will think about the world as she matures, but don’t think she is anywhere near that–or are her friends–at this point in their lives.

    • Lee Fox Lee Fox says:

      As a mother of 3 young children myself, I see your point, Prissi. Not every child gives — or has the funds to give — however from a standpoint of trends, the personality traits and lifestyle of American GenZ kids (AKA Plurals) is such that they are (i) empowered; (ii) highly educated; (iii) mature in comparison to people their age of previous generations; and (iv) technologically capable. On the other hand, this group of kids also happens to be the most materially-endowed generation to date — which is perhaps why the Zeds are the most marketed-to children of all time and the biggest consumers.

      All I’m saying: with so many brands (both nonprofit and for-profit) competing for attention in the cause space organizations need to engage with young people differently.

      I am curious … from your own daughter’s POV, does she care about more about brands committed to a cause? Or is that not hitting her radar?

  4. The teens we’ve interacted with definitely wanted to know how to get involved in the world and what they could do to help. And they aren’t just the type to give money, they want to get involved in a social media campaign or a petition, or an offline activity. It’s been inspiring. They also care about products commitment to the environment in a way that I know my Generation didn’t as much (Gen X). So from what very small sample size we’ve interacted with, I’d say the future looks bright indeed.

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