Making sense of millennials

Making sense of millennials

I remember the first time I realized I was now working with a younger generation. Slapshot remains one of my top five favorite movies and a Generation X favorite. Starring Paul Newman in the most un-Paul Newman-like role, it featured the exploits of the Charleston Chiefs hockey team and, in particular, the Hanson brothers. These were three fictional brothers who essentially skated around the ice whipping the fans into a frenzy by fighting anything that moved.

I was talking to a coworker in my former career who also liked the movie. I was going to bring another, who was fresh out of college, into the conversation. My coworker stopped me. “He’s not going to know who the Hanson brothers are.”

We were all sports fans. Slapshot is a sports movie. I thought for sure he’d seen it. So I asked him “Who are the Hanson brothers.”

He looked at me with a blank expression and then replied “the singers.”

Oh, man, he was talking about the “MMMbop” band.

That was 14 years ago. That Millennial generation (those born from 1980 to 1999) will be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. That means people who run businesses or nonprofits had better get a good handle on the generation. This year Millennials, which number about 75.4 million people today and will peak at 81.1 million in 2036, passed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation.

The Case Foundation has been studying Millennials since 2011, interviewing more than 75,000, to understand better how nonprofits need to adjust to reach the younger generations.

Some things to know about yourself – if you are a Millennial – or your younger coworker.

  • Raised in the era of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession, Millennials realize the only certainty in life is uncertainty. They won’t be a generation of people working at just one company, giving to just one organization.
  • Since 2011, the Case Foundation found between 75 percent and 93 percent donated to a nonprofit each year and between 63 percent and 79 percent volunteered time at least once during the prior year.
  • Females are more charitable than men in this generation.
  • Millennials are more likely to volunteer if asked by a peer or coworker.
  • Millennials are continually looking to improve their skills with 77 percent saying they would volunteer if their expertise helped further a cause.

It’s this kind of data that led Nicole Sdao of Freeport to launch She realized that Millennials want to get involved. It is nonprofits who haven’t caught on to how the generation communicates. If you want to find volunteers or new donors, you have to catch their eye in an increasingly busy digital space. In 2012, 73 percent of Millennials had smartphones. This year, it’s 87 percent. Your business or organization must be on that phone to survive in the future.