Why you should care
Because members of Generation Z believe the world will get better, not worse.
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Asked to picture a member of Generation Z, you might imagine a young adult with earbuds and their face glued to the screen of an iPhone. Or you might picture someone rallying behind a meaningful cause or posting on Snapchat about a new movement.
All of these, and more, are accurate depictions.
Gen Z — generally defined as anyone born after 1996 — is often referred to as the “philanthroteen” generation due to their propensity for activism and support of social causes. Born in an era dominated by the war on terror and raised during the Great Recession, Gen Z has inhabited a vastly different world than the one familiar to millennials. As a result, they’ve developed a very specific viewpoint on how to help the world. In fact, a 2018 study from Girl Up found that:
70 percent of Gen Z believes their lives need to make a difference in the world, and 65 percent feel it’s important for companies to take a stand on social issues.
So how, exactly, does this generation plan to leave a lasting impact? Let’s look at some of the key places where Gen Z is concentrating their philanthropic efforts.
On Social Media
Millennials may remember iPods and MySpace from their teen years, but Gen Z is the first generation to be raised in the age of smartphones — and they don’t know anything different. In fact, many cannot remember a time before social media. Dean McGovern, executive director of the Bennion Community Service Center at the University of Utah, points out that social media plays a major role in how Gen Z gives back because it’s so integral to their lives. “We know social media is a big part of where Gen Z students spend their time, get news, meet people, buy products, contribute to causes and learn about events and programs,” he says.
And it’s such a tremendous driver that Gen Z may be responsible for enhancing Americans’ civic engagement. Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard, reported a decline in social capital over the past decade due to decreased participation in civic groups and social clubs. But in the past few years, Gen Z has rapidly replenished this social capital through targeted websites and social media platforms.
“They’re sparking a bit of a revolution,” says McGovern.
While social media digitally connects Gen Z to various causes, this generation also seeks to bring civic engagement into their everyday lives. “They want to make change locally and actually see the difference they are making,” says McGovern. “They also want their volunteering efforts to translate to employable skills and connections to jobs.”
Considering that Gen Z will account for 32 percent of the global population next year, companies are getting smarter about engaging this growing pool of talent. And some companies are ahead of the curve. For example, JPMorgan Chase’s Good Works program connects employees to community volunteering, workplace giving, skills-based volunteerism and even board service. And the company’s employees are eager to make a difference.
In 2017 alone, more than 56,000 JPMorgan Chase employees participated in volunteer projects, donating nearly 400,000 hours of their time and almost $7 million to nonprofits of their choosing, utilizing the company workplace giving program. And to a generation of young employees that believes in putting their money where their mouth is, that level of commitment resonates.
Through Their Purchases
Much as they donate to causes they support, Gen Z also wants their consumer dollars to make a positive difference. According to a 2018 study by DoSomething Strategic, more than 50 percent of Gen Z has purchased a particular product or service to show support for a preferred cause.
Affi Parvizi-Wayne, founder of Freda, the UK’s first customized organic subscription box, explains what might be behind this type of spending mindset: “Overall, this generation is more conscious and wants to buy from brands that have purpose — allowing them to be a part of a caring movement. They have giving and activism in their DNA.”
In order to keep this young generation engaged, corporations must make a concentrated effort to promote philanthropy and encourage volunteerism to help push forward Gen Z’s belief, says McGovern, that “the world really will get better, not worse.”
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