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United Way Blog

Beyond Slacktivists: Millennials, Volunteering and Social Cause

Slacktivism. It means quick and easy social or political participation, like signing an online petition. Some argue that –tech-savvy Millennials in particular -- who participate in the public square online but don’t show up in person –don’t care enough or are too lazy to “really” get involved.

The fact is, while Millennials perceive activism differently than their parents, they are no less passionate about causes they believe in.  The 2016 Millennial Impact Report: Cause Engagement During a U.S. Presidential Election Year takes a close look at Millennial attitudes and values relating to cause engagement during the nine months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It is essential reading for Millennial activists or anyone interested in tapping into the passion, brains and brawn of the largest living generation.

One conclusion from the research is that Millennials are turning away from organizations and institutions, especially government, believing they can count on only themselves to create the kind of change they want. Taking matters into their own hands, “they use petitioning, volunteering, social media and acting within their own circles as ways to quietly further change.”

Volunteering can provide an experience and education like no other. What I found, and the study supports, is how important it is for this generation to clearly connect volunteering – or any social action -- with making a real difference. Sure Millennials volunteer for social reasons, but they also need and deserve to know how their time and effort changed a life. Nationally, volunteering with United Way has grown by at least 65 percent in the past five consecutive years. This is not only a result of our concerted effort to recruit, train and deploy volunteers, but to educate Millennials and provide them a variety of ways to further engage in the issues that matter to them the most.

Read the topline conclusions and the full report here.