I’m a millennial.
The “official” definition, coming from the book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, defines us as the phone-toting, selfie-snapping people born from 1982-2004.
So I just make it as an old young person.
But when I look at people several years younger than me, those I consider the core of millennials (born from about ’85-’95, at least for the purposes of this discussion), I admire their energy, their social consciousness, and their collaborative nature.
While many employers are skeptical of this rising generation, I think those things make them tremendously valuable to our emerging workforce, especially within nonprofits and purpose driven companies.
To see how that is, let’s leave aside the monetary challenges the generation has inherited while coming of age during a recession and enormous student debt loads and instead look at millennials as creative and active forces.
They like to be hands-on and in the front lines and will give of their time. They come up with creative ways to share resources and get the word out. Purpose driven companies should tap into millennials as volunteers, employees, and partners.
These and other unique positive leadership traits of millennials are what I plan to explore in the next several posts.
Let’s start with their social consciousness…
The Cause Generation
Live Aid and Farm Aid are causes that make up some of the first media images millennials saw. From there, it was issues like fixing the hole in the ozone layer and fighting global warming, and then Hurricane Katrina.
That helps explain why, according to the Case Foundation’s 2013 Millennial Impact Report, 72% of millennials report a serious desire to join a nonprofit.
Millennials’ social consciousness is the real thing. It’s the cause that matters to them, not just the organization. This is reiterated in the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, and it’s a sentiment I see over and over with many of the young adults with whom I’ve worked over the years. It means that millennials are motivated by the meat of the issue above all else.
It’s the issue itself and not the idea of volunteering that inspires millennials. (click to Tweet)
The Social Generation
Famously, Joel Stein of Time called millennials the “Me Me Me” Generation, with a photo of a girl snapping a selfie on the cover.
But millennials are also the “us” generation in a way that is so crucial to nonprofits. I’m not going to trot out obvious statistics about who shares what on Facebook how often or how many Twitter followers the average millennial has. We know millennials are connected.
But consider how this is valuable to leaders of high impact companies and movements. The Case Foundation’s 2014 report I mentioned above states “millennials are influenced by the decisions and behaviors of their peers.” What more can a nonprofit ask than this perfect environment for networking?
Millennials like to be influenced, but they prefer to do the influencing. (click to Tweet)
They’re extremely valuable to high growth companies and organizations in coming up with creative ways of forming partnerships, finding that restaurant to donate food for your event or a company to swap services, incorporate your message into theirs, etc.
I recently learned of a public library collecting cans of food for a local food bank in a “Food for Fines” campaign—give a can and take a dollar off your library fines. Connecting disparate ideas like that is what millennials are all about. And they do it with hundreds of their closest friends. They form flash mobs and understand guerrilla marketing not because it’s cool, but because it’s effective.
They think about things in terms of webs and networks, and yes, they’re addicted to sharing rich media. I remember the days of Encyclopedia Brittanica, and while I cherished my days in the library pouring over those volumes I’m excited by the prospect of distributed responsibility across content (e.g. Wikipedia) and the rapidly growing pace of innovation that millennials are helping accelerate.
Stay tuned because over the next few weeks, I’m going to write on this topic more, and take a deeper look into the unique leadership skills of millennials. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I’m pretty damn excited about it.
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think? Or, if you have a specific topic you’d like me to further comment on, let me know!