Report details the surprising viewpoints Millennials have on activism

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Millennials are described as lazy and selfish on the regular, but new research reveals them to be an engaged and passionate generation that cares about causes and social issues – they just engage with the issues differently. That’s the main finding from the report by the Case Foundation of a 10-year study of 150,000 Millennials.

“Today, young people who want to serve believe they don’t necessarily need to work through any organizations to create change,” Millennial Impact Project Derrick Feldman. “They have their own methods, and they believe in their own ability to make a difference.”


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Here’s how Millennials make a difference, their way.

They’re everyday do-gooders. Millennials may not have the money yet to make a large yearly donation to the organization of their choice – and that’s not really how they roll, anyway. Maybe they do a charity run, support a Kickstarter campaign, buy something that supports a good cause, or switch to using metal straws to support the environment. Here’s how one respondent put it: “I feel like you can be an activist in small ways that make a big impact. For me, by making a donation and talking to my friends about [an issue.] I pay attention to where I spent my money, too … So I would say I am [an activist], but not in the way other people might think.”

Millennials believe they’re activists. They believe in bringing about change in the traditional sense – protests, petitions, and contacting their representatives. And 71% believe that the ordinary civic duty of voting is activism.

They care about issues, not institutions. 90% gave to five institutions in 2012. Over 90% said they would stop giving to an organization if they found it distrustful. And 90% also said that they are motivated to donate because of a captivating mission, not a particular organization.

They have no patience for partisan bickering. If social causes are going to get fixed, it’s going to come from the bottom up. Millennials responded that they had no trust in the government’s ability to address social issues like poverty (33%), race and culture (32%), and student loans (30%).

They get involved when their peers do. Come one, come all. In data from the last 10 years, it was found that 52% of Millennials gave charitably because of a friend or peer endorsement, 87% volunteered to maximize their social connections, and 47% were not afraid to ask family and friends for money when they felt strongly about a cause.

In addition, 65% were more likely to volunteer if their coworkers participated.