Motivate Millennials by Making a Difference

Millennials view corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy as major factors when choosing their employers. In fact, over three-quarters would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company, with over 85% noting that their jobs are more rewarding when opportunities are provided to make a positive impact on causes that resonate with their values.

The considerable desire for millennials to make a difference may come as no surprise. Unlike prior generations, fundraising and volunteering are natural extensions of millennials’ everyday lives. From planting community gardens to joining City Year to collecting canned goods for the local soup kitchen, giving back has been part of millennials’ DNA since childhood. Generally born between 1980 and 2000, millennials logically expect—- and often require that corporate philanthropy be integral to today’s workplace.

Giving Back Benefits Retention
Millennials don’t search for jobs, but investigate potential career opportunities that often resonate with their social conscious and everyday lives. Similar to prior generations, millennials wish to make a good first impression. However, many expect companies to do the same by having a track record that demonstrates a culture of corporate responsibility.

Well before millennials upload their resumes and click the submit key, these digital natives will scour a prospective employer’s website and perform a Google search to determine what, if any, causes the company actively supports. Furthermore, millennials will proactively obtain firsthand knowledge about the company (both good and bad) by visiting multiple job and recruiting sites. Popular sites such as Glassdoor offer reviews by current and former employees which often include comments about an employer’s commitment to CSR and philanthropy.

Therefore, understanding what motivates millennials in the workplace is essential to retaining talent. When you consider that one-third of millennials surveyed say that a company’s volunteer policies affect their decision to apply for a job, corporate philanthropy can play an important role.

For starters, companies that encourage volunteerism experience higher retention rates. Offering charitable opportunities to join enjoyable and meaningful activities, such as paid time-off for mentoring teens at a Boys & Girls Club or building new homes with Habitat for Humanity, increases job satisfaction and foster a sense of pride throughout the company. Additionally, these activities build teamwork and collaboration within the workplace, while often increasing productivity and a company’s bottom line. Another offshoot of corporate philanthropy is that it can bolster a company’s brand by enticing qualified applicants to explore a future with the organization.

Bigger than Bucks
Although cash donations to targeted charities and non-profits are a standard component of community outreach and employee engagement programs, it takes more than writing checks to obtain millennial buy-in. Millennials are more apt to become engaged in a company-sponsored cause if provided an understanding of why it is being supported. Therefore, soliciting direct input from millennial employees will help to ensure the philanthropic causes are viewed as making a positive difference that inspires participation. And as reported by The New York Times, millennials will not only give money but will also volunteer and lend the force of their own social networks to a cause they believe in.

The Millennial Impact Report offers the following engagement strategies:

Peer Influence. C-workers have a significant impact on the philanthropic programs in which we participate. According to the report, 46% of millennials were more likely to donate if a co-worker makes the request versus less than 30% when approached by the CEO or their supervisors.
Engage Expertise. Millennials volunteer between 1 and 10 hours per year. Therefore, offering focused projects, such as company-wide days of service that easily allow millennials to leverage their skills and expertise, will yield higher acceptance and participation rates.
Competition Counts! Millennials are motivated by games that include employee recognition opportunities. Incentives, such as additional time off also encourage participation.
Return on Investment. Competition and incentives create the initial spark. However, it’s most important to show employees how their donation or volunteering tangibly made a difference to the cause.

Communicating Corporate Philanthropy
Each of the engagement strategies listed requires fresh ways to communicate the goodwill of a company and its team members. Following are some best practices preferred by millennials.

Social Media. Millennials are passionate proponents of social media for sharing experiences and expressing thoughts on a wide range of subjects. If volunteering to build a playground, collecting pledges for a walkathon or mentoring a teenager in math, you can bet they will most likely post photos to their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Savvy companies do the same to engage employees and customers to join their channels while shining a spotlight on their best and brightest.
Digital Employee Recognition. And while you’re posting on social media, don’t forget to recognize employees by publishing content to your company’s digital signage system. Share pictures of your volunteers. Use scorecards to build awareness of your fundraising programs such as your local animal shelter or Toys for Tots. Throw in some digital award badges to recognize milestones, stimulate the competitive spirit and optimize visual impact.
Make it Convenient. Provide more than one way to donate. In addition to automatic payroll deductions, provide employees the ability to make contributions using a variety of online pay services. Also, maintain a corporate philanthropy page on your company’s intranet so employees can easily review opportunities to contribute their time, talents and money whenever they choose.

Additional communication and engagement strategies for attracting qualified applicants range from showcasing a company’s Junior Achievement involvement to promoting environmentally friendly business practices (e.g. onsite recycling programs) at college career fairs and on corporate lobby electronic bulletin boards. Corporate responsibility should also be supported by employee recognition programs.

Regardless of the causes you support or the communication channels you choose, corporate philanthropy and CSR programs valued by millennials have two things in common: they offer meaningful life experiences and a greater sense of purpose. These programs improve employee engagement and increase productivity while providing an important resource to attract and shape future leaders of your company.

Barry Lee Cohen
June 5, 2017

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