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3 Ways Companies Can Reach Millennials Through Cause Work

It’s not exactly a new concept: Millennials (individuals born from 1980 and 2000) are changing the ways businesses, organizations and communities operate. Millennials are arguably the most studied and critiqued generation of all time, and that is because they’re rapidly becoming the leaders and innovators directly shaping our culture.

Derrick Feldman Derrick Feldman

80 million Millennials live and work in the United States and spend about $300 billion every year on discretionary goods. That $300 billion is why marketers, fundraisers and a host of other industries are particularly interested in what makes Millennials tick. And employers themselves are trying to understand how to leverage their corporate cause programs to recruit talented Millennials and cultivate a work culture that resonates their younger employees. By 2020, Millennials will make up over 50% of the national workforce. At that point, Millennial preferences on workplace engagement will no longer be unique, they will become the norm. Don’t let your company get left behind.

After spending four years researching how the next generation of donors and volunteers prefers to engage directly with causes, we decided to center this our fifth study, the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, on how employers work with causes to engage Millennials. We released the full report last week, but here are three takeaways you should start implementing at your company today:

1.Initiate new employees into cause work early on.

Our study found that over half (55%) of employees who discussed company-sponsored cause work in their interviews said the topic influenced them to accept a job. We also found that interest in volunteer programs (such as company-wide days of service) peaked in the first two years an employee is at a company and declines over time. In contrast, interest in company-sponsored giving initiatives increased over time and resonated less with early employees. As interest in service projects decline and interest in giving increases over time, you should focus your resources and energy on incorporating volunteerism and cause-related actions during the onboarding or orientation process. Provide opportunities for your employees to volunteer within departments and complete cause work with a team during their first days at your company.

2. Embrace a three-pronged approach to company cause work.

Focus your resources and attention on providing three specific types of service opportunities: company-wide days of volunteering, department/team service projects and opportunities to use individual skills or interests to benefit a cause. Company-wide volunteer days may consume more time, but our research showed that not only do younger Millennials enjoy them, but company-wide service days were the number one cause-related initiative they wanted to see more of. In addition, 78% of Millennial employees preferred performing cause work in groups rather than independently. Particularly, 62% of Millennials said they’d rather volunteer with people in their team or department rather than co-workers they don’t normally work with directly. The third approach to company cause work involves providing opportunities for employees to use their individual skills or talents to help a cause. Of the Millennial employees surveyed, 94% preferred using skills to volunteer and benefit a cause.

3. Offer Millennial employees a range of options.

Let’s face it, Millennials like their options. Rather than requiring certain volunteer activities or cause projects, allow employees to choose how they can use their skills to make a difference. Allow them to perform small actions from their desks as well as larger projects with their department off-site. When you create opportunities for employees to use their skills and work time to make a difference, the benefits will show in your culture and employee retention. When asked the number one reason (besides compensation) they would be motivated to stay at a company, 53% of Millennial employees chose having their talents and passions utilized and fulfilled.

Using these three takeaways as a larger framework and approach to corporate cause initiatives will build a workforce culture supported by employees who love their company, feel they’re making a difference and form very real bonds with their coworkers.

Read more about the next generation’s preferences on corporate cause work by downloading the full 2014 Millennial Impact Report.


Derrick Feldmann leads the national research team of the Millennial Impact Project as well as the planning of MCON, the nation’s premier conference on the next generation of causes and innovative leadership. He is the President of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency. Derrick speaks regularly on the latest trends in fundraising, cause engagement and Millennials. He is the co-author of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement.

Topics: Trends