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Attract Millennials With Your Good Cause

Millennials want to make the world a better place. They even eat with a social conscience. A recent poll shows that a majority of people under the age of 30 want to do that by volunteering for charities or organizations.

Millennials want to make the world a better place. They even eat with a social conscience.

A recent poll shows that a majority of people under the age of 30 want to do that by volunteering for charities or organizations.

If your organization is trying to attract Gen Y as members or employees, and you should be, their desire to make a positive difference is something you need to pay attention to and leverage, even if you aren’t looking for volunteers.

I used to work for a nonprofit that collected old ink cartridges from the community and turned them in to save the raptors. It’s the first thing I noticed when I applied for a the job. The good feeling I had about the organization based on the charity they did (which far exceeded ink cartridges for raptors), kept me at that job long after the novelty of working there had worn off. I liked that the work I did was making the community a better place, even when I hated my job. If their charity could keep me around, trust me, it can work for you too.


You may not be a charitable organization, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate a way to give back to attract Gen Y to your ranks. Millennials genuinely want to make the world a better place, and they are willing to work to do it. Why not have them do it working for you?

Let’s take Starkey Hearing for example. A corporate company that sells hearing aids to doctors’ offices. A quick look at their homepage will give a good idea why Millennials, motivated by a desire to do good, would be attracted to Starkey. They’ve marketed themselves as making a difference in the community by focusing on real people who benefit from their products. They make their employees feel good about what they do.


When I worked as a cashier for Target in college, I participated in a Meals on Wheels initiative they had. I went in to work and volunteered to deliver meals instead of ring up customers for a couple hours. When I got back from my route, I was informed I wouldn’t be paid for that time. All the good feeling I had about Target doing good in the community was lost. They were putting their name on my goodwill. I was mad. Facilitating a program is not going to be enough. Your organization needs to represent positive change.

Allow Millennials to be actively involved. Giving a percentage of your paycheck each week doesn’t create a sense of connection to a cause. Make it more meaningful by allowing Gen Y to actively engage.

Be creative. If you aren’t sure what will appeal to your employees, ask them. Millennials are reinventing charity. They probably have ideas on how the organization they work for can help them do that.

Millennials want to work for companies making real positive differences. Showing them how their work does that or creating a program to involve them directly in charity will help you attract and retain Gen Y employees while also improving the community.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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