Takeaways from the 2017 Millennial Impact Report


Derrick Feldmann, Founder of Millennial Impact Project, reports that millennials have found their voice and continue to be invigorated by causes and social issues.

In 2017, millennials helped organize and took part in marches for women’s rights across the country. They joined in the outcry against banning refugees and immigrants from specific countries. They spoke up for people brought to this country illegally as children. They supported the rights of sexual harassment victims to be believed. And as 2018 began, they lent their considerable voices to the gun debate.

Millennials and their cause involvement have not always fit neatly into nonprofit industry categories. Yet, the industry’s delay in recognizing their value has not affected their desires to make life better for others.

Right now, millennials believe in organizations and in other ways to effect change. Together, millennials and nonprofits can create solutions. But, if we as nonprofit entities won’t adjust to their needs, millennials – our new and future constituents – will move on without us.

The 2017 Millennial Impact Report

Takeaway 1:

Millennials strive for a world in which conditions are better than they are today and will continue to get better for everyone. In this mindset, the status quo does not resonate (and likely never will); they don’t see any way to address causes and solve social issues that affect lives, including their own, except through change. When this generation is dissatisfied with the state of things or how a social issue is being addressed, they will act. The activity immediately following the presidential election and in response to political decisions is a prime example, as investigated in this report. And when they act, millennials are thoughtful in their behavior. Depending on the nature of the issue at hand, they may prefer to vote rather than protest, or act locally rather than through a national organization. They may prefer to act individually, then at other times need to gather as we see in marches and protests. They may or may not look to a nonprofit for guidance. These decisions appear to depend much on whether the issue affects them personally or is an overarching societal challenge. Regardless of how they choose to act, they will act on behalf of the causes and social issues they are most interested in. They will have their voices heard.


Harness millennial dissatisfaction with the status quo and demonstrate how they can be part of the solution through your organization. Don’t be shy about sharing your stance on important causes/social issues and what you’re going to do to advance progress, remembering to focus on how your donors, volunteers and others make the work possible. Share stories of individuals whose lives have improved through your efforts. If you are a local organization, get to know the millennials interested in your issue and take a personal approach to giving them a platform to share their voice. If you are a national organization, articulate the power of the individual and the collective voice to solve society’s challenges.

Takeaway 2:

Millennials are more involved in causes than ever, and they don’t care much how we label or categorize them. Millennials don’t think of themselves in terms of the transactional role they play with an organization (donor, activist, volunteer, advocate, etc.). They simply view themselves as people who believe change is necessary, and they are certain they can bring it about. Research continues to show that people do not give out of loyalty to an institution. Especially with millennials, they support an issue to improve the lives of others.


Refocus messaging and infrastructure to align with millennials’ belief in themselves as having many assets to use on behalf of a cause. Marketers, fundraisers, volunteer coordinators and activism departments must consistently work as a closely coordinated team to develop deeper relationships with millennials who believe in your cause; managers must ensure an environment of teamwork rather than competition for engaging millennials. Establish ways to collect and share stories that illustrate your influence on an issue (focusing on how supporters made that influence felt, rather than emphasizing your organization).

Takeaway 3:

While millennials share news about causes/social issues they care about, they view current online discourse as uncivil and so do not engage in it. Millennials are posting and sharing about the causes and social issues they believe in, using a non-confrontational approach to gaining support for their position. However, they are not actively engaged in the exchange of ideas. As Achieve found in its 2016 research, millennials tend to avoid opportunities for conflict about polarizing issues – to knowingly bring up what one knows will create tension is seen as foisting one’s opinion on others.


Tailor your messages to your target audiences, which should include millennials.

In messaging about your cause to millennials, include:

  • positive, emotion-based language (how does this cause affect an individual) and factual language (details of or factors influencing the cause)

  • short- and long-term calls to action and desired outcomes

  • opportunities to take immediate, one-time actions as well as for longer-term involvement

Remember to package all this in ways that are easily shareable.

Published by The Millennial Impact Project | Read the full report