Written by Janet Ervin

It’s Millennial Month at Next Stage! Earlier this week, we officially launched this survey of 1,000+ Charlotte-area millennials to support our Profit & Purpose research. This survey will help inform how next generation workers in the Charlotte area are looking at the ways businesses and nonprofits intersect. Take the survey or share it with your networks to help inform this research!

As an ‘elder millennial’ (analog childhood, digital young adulthood) myself, I’m used to hearing about the ‘disruptiveness’ of our generation. Google ‘Millennial trends’ and you’ll turn up hundreds of hot takes on a whole lot of topics – from the changing ways younger generations are buying homes to the amount of avocado toast we eat. Apparently, we’re responsible for cancelling a lot of things.

Born after 1981, the Millennials and Gen Z generations grew up during a time that has been defined by major cultural change. Many of us came of age during 9/11 and got our first jobs just as the Great Recession hit in 2008 – I launched my nonprofit career in Charlotte just months before the banks crashed in September of that year. Now, many Millennials are building careers and starting families against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic.

It’s no wonder these generations are seen as so disruptive – but how do these changes impact the ways next generation employees perceive giving back and our role in community giving? Millennial and Gen Z are widely considered the most socially-conscious generations ever – but the way they perceive giving back is notably different.

Here are three of the top shifts that characterize how the Millennial generation gives back:

  1. Next generation workers care about causes over institutions.
    Overall, millennials are interested in systemic change and are far more committed to a cause itself, rather than an organization. According to The Millennial Impact Report, 90% of millennials are motivated to give by a compelling mission, not the organization itself – and 90% of those same millennials would stop giving if they stopped trusting an organization. This loyalty means that younger generations are often willing to give and donate across a range of organizations oriented around a cause they care most about.
  2. Engagement includes more than volunteer work.   
    It is this same bend towards systemic change that inspires younger generations to perceive a larger range of actions as their contribution to social good. In the past, donations and volunteer hours were the primary currency of social good. But younger generations include actions like voting, changing their buying habits and sharing content as equally important to social change.


  1. Millennials want social good integrated into daily life.
    Unlike previous generations, Millennials and Gen Z employees often want social good directly integrated to their work life. According to this Deloitte report, Millennials are aging into leadership roles, but many are dissatisfied with the workplace culture and desire a greater focus on purpose, diversity and inclusion and community than previous generations of leadership.


These trends have major implications for nonprofits, businesses and our community and point to a need for more collaboration than ever before. In our Profit & Purpose study this spring, we’ll unpack more of these trends and explore ways that all of our organizations can build partnerships that strengthen our community for generations to come.

Until then, you can learn more by signing up for our February What’s Next? discussions. View the topics and register here.