Blackbaud Newsroom

Millennials Are Causing Change With Social Responsibility – Forbes

Article originally published on by contributing writer Wes Gay on August 11, 2017

Millennials are an idealistic, altruistic generation.

This generation is passionate about social causes that benefit the greater good, whether it’s a nonprofit charity or an altruistic company like TOMS. One recent study found the average millennial gives nearly $600 per year to charitable causes. While this is lower than older generations, millennials are battling student loan debt, stagnant salaries, and a rising cost of living.

As a whole, millennials tend to be generous with their time, money, and influence. They freely use their social media platforms to raise awareness and money for causes important to them. The nonprofit charity: water, for example, found fundraising success by enabling people to use social media outlets to raise money.

How do these trends impact the modern workplace? I’ve written beforeon the topic of volunteering programs in companies. Many of the top companies in the world create dynamic programs designed to engage millennials’ desire to do good in the world.

As corporate social responsibility programs expand, they are experiencing an interesting shift. Instead of focusing on the company, brands are now shifting the focus onto the individuals within the company. In other words, company executives are taking the lead from their employees when it comes to building and expanding a social responsibility program.

Focus on the individual

“People bring their whole selves to work,” says Rachel Hutchisson, vice president of corporate citizenship & philanthropy at Blackbaud, a leading technology company that provides solutions to the philanthropic community. She is responsible for expanding the corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts of its 3,000 associates, which drives her to survey the changing landscape of CSR.

Hutchisson senses a shift away from focusing on companies, instead highlighting the unique values of the individual. “Companies following this trend are beginning to look beyond their corporate imperatives with the understanding that their employees’ purpose — and their community’s social good needs — play into CSR.”

This concept is especially poignant among millennials. As the largest and most targeted generation in history, millennials place a high value on being seen as individuals. Many millennials are increasingly frustrated with the sweeping generalizations made online and at work. Companies who want a CSR program that engages this generation will start by asking what they value most in terms of service and giving back.

Don’t build around company pillars

Some companies build programs around specific causes supported by the company. They may limit their employees to support or contribute to those organizations, restricting the opportunity for employees to donate to causes passionate to them.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea. Companies support causes and even match donations as part of an overall brand message. But that mistakenly presumes charitable decisions are transactional, not personal.

“A company driven by the values of their employees would, instead, take a very open approach, allowing the individual to choose what cause matters,” notes Hutchisson. “The belief that philanthropy is personal is at the heart of an employee-centric approach to CSR.”

Tell stories often

Every day I help companies discover clarity in their marketing by using the principles of storytelling. People are captivated by a compelling story, whether it’s in a movie, marketing, or a company program.

Sharing stories of success is a critical way companies can increase the buy-in and overall effectiveness of social responsibility programs. “Companies should understand that there is rarely anything more motivating than for their people to hear about what peers are accomplishing,” notes Hutchisson. “Telling stories of one’s own people builds pride in the brand.”

Companies also need to share the stories of the impact created by their work. Hutchisson recommends using the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals to show how their work makes a lasting impact.

Let data drive decisions

Companies are accustomed to reviewing data for things like marketing campaigns, sales strategies, and corporate initiatives to ensure they achieve key objectives and help increase revenue. Reviewing data to make better decisions also involves millennials and corporate responsibility.

“Social responsibility and HR should work together using data gained from engagement and volunteerism surveys — to determine what programs are most compelling for each audience,” says Hutchisson.

In the race to find and keep the best millennial talent, companies look for strategic advantages in order to win. Regular evaluation of the data enables companies to improve with recruitment and retention, allowing them to make the company better by keeping people who take pride in the brand.