What Drives Gen Z: Is It the Experience or the Cause? | npENGAGE

What Drives Gen Z: Is It the Experience or the Cause?

By on Sep 20, 2018


Contrary to what is commonly believed, young people care about, and give to, virtually every major social cause. Obviously, there are some who are more passionate about animal rights, for example, than, say, recycling, but passion isn’t the only driving force for action. For young people, the experience itself is what inspires action and drives engagement.

Gen Z is incredibly socially aware and ready to help. They believe individuals, not governments or even nonprofits, are responsible to tackle the challenges we face and they put their time where their values are: 67 percent have volunteered in the last 12 months.

So, how do you get them involved with your cause? As you approach your campaign, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. What’s the ask?

Young people know they have the ability to make an impact on the causes they care about and want to add value to the organizations they believe in. But, unlike older generations, young people believe donating money will have the least impact. Instead, they want to be actively involved, particularly in ways they can share with others, either online or in person. For the Ice Bucket Challenge, the money made a difference, but the request for donations was ancillary to the primary challenge (take an ice shower or pay up).

When it comes to activating young people, don’t prioritize the actions you want them to take, instead focus on what actions are impactful to them. It may sound simple, but the difference couldn’t be more important. We call this principle, “Fight for the User.” Certain types of actions resonate more than others with young people, like  “Share something,” “Host an event,” or “Make something.”

Give young people options so that each individual finds an opportunity that feels meaningful to them. Whether it’s sharing a personal story about discrimination on social media or creating a young professionals advisory board, offering a variety of ways to get involved is critical.

  1. How much time will it take?

Time is the number one criterion young people use to sort campaigns on DoSomething.org (with less than an hour being the most popular filter).  Actions like signing online petitions, contacting legislators, and sharing social media posts are often viewed as dated or simply ineffective, but these actions actually serve as an important and appealing introduction to causes.

While some online actions may indeed have less impact than donating money or volunteering, these simple actions are super appealing to young people because they require little time and commitment. They allow young people to act on impulse. And our data shows, that once young people have connected with a cause, even via a simple way, many tend to stick around to provide greater help down the road.

  1. How can you get their friends to do it, too?

The first question most young people ask themselves before trying something is “are other people like me doing this?” This also applies to supporting an organization and volunteering. Our data tells us that, for young people, having friends that volunteer with them is nearly twice as important as having the ability to work on an issue they care about deeply.

The Millennial Impact Report (2014 & 2015) confirmed the importance of peer influence noting that 78% of millennials say they prefer doing cause work in groups vs. 22% who prefer doing cause work individually. In addition, 65% of millennial employees said they were more likely to volunteer if their coworkers participated. Peer pressure works, so use it to create social good!


As Managing Director of DoSomething Strategic, Meredith ensures that the work delivered is both thoughtful and impactful. Her passion for creativity and innovation leads her to challenge traditional thinking and deliver breakthrough ideas for DoSomething Strategic’s clients. Meredith’s career has spanned both client and agency roles, where she’s led youth-focused engagement and business-driving strategies for national retail, health, and restaurant brands. She speaks globally on the power of young people and purpose at conferences including ANA, YMS, PSFK, PromaxBDA, &Then, IEG, and Brand ManageCamp. Meredith is an adjunct professor of Public Interest Marketing at Fordham University, a Women@Forbes contributing columnist, and has served as a judge for the Positive Change Effie Awards and the D&AD Impact Awards. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School where she was a founding member of the Vanderbilt Child & Family Law Clinic. When not striving to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie, Meredith can be found watching a musical or walking through Central Park with her husband and two kids.

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