Cathy Pharoah: Millennial generation is socially concerned and a force for change

There has been an expectation revolution among young people, according to our columnist

Cathy Pharoah
Cathy Pharoah

Are winds of change sweeping through the next generation of givers? The millennial cohort (born 1980-2000) are today's labour market entrants and tomorrow's donors. They've seen harsh economic, environmental and political fall-out from 9/11, recession and globalisation. Some observers claim the reaction of millennials is growing individualism; others say it is social concern. New research from the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy, commissioned by City Philanthropy and funded by the City Bridge Trust finds an "expectation revolution" – a generation more critical of employers and charities, and more willing to get involved.

A key finding of the research, conducted by YouGov, is that young staff want to give more time, money and skills. On almost all indicators they are more motivated in this respect than older respondents: 53 per cent of under-35s want to volunteer more, compared with 35 per cent of over-35s. Thirty-eight per cent say the global crisis has made them think it important to give something back, compared with 30 per cent of over-35s, and 33 per cent want to give more money, compared with 21 per cent of over-35s.

The rising generation also has higher expectations. Nearly half (46 per cent) say employees want to work for companies that prioritise social and environmental value as well as business success, compared with 29 per cent of over-35s. They are one-and-a-half times as likely as their older counterparts to expect companies to offer opportunities to work with charities and communities.

More information and support on giving and volunteering opportunities are essential. After a decade of initiatives on philanthropy, many young people are still not being reached. Employers can ensure they have workplace-based community initiatives, but charities have a role to play too. They need to capture donors' minds as well as their hearts and wallets. Millennials are as ambitious about contributing to charitable causes as they are about professional employment. They could be a powerful resource and force for change.

To download the report in full, go to

Cathy Pharoah is professor of charity funding at Cass Business School

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