How millennials are changing corporate giving

Jorie Goins, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Corporate generosity took center stage in May when Robert F. Smith, the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity, announced his plan to pay off student loans for Morehouse College's entire 2019 graduating class.

At the same time, MacKenzie Bezos, the ex-wife of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, signed the Giving Pledge, agreeing to earmark half of her wealth for charitable donations.

As wealthy Americans like Smith and Bezos make public displays of generosity, employees of large and small companies may wish for their jobs to follow suit. This is especially true for millennial and Gen Z workers.

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and many have a vested interest in the social responsibility of companies they patronize or work for. Their Gen Z counterparts are entering the workplace with a similar, if not higher, desire for corporate social responsibility.

According to a 2016 study by Cone Communications, 75% of millennials said they would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company. Cone's 2017 Gen Z CSR Study also noted that 87% of millennials and 94% of Gen Zers say companies should address social and environmental issues.

Unfortunately, according to author and multigenerational workplace expert Lindsey Pollak, employers often perceive this zeal as a negative trait.


"I often laugh when leaders complain about how their 'entitled' millennials come into their jobs on day one and want to make a difference," she wrote in her book, "The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace."

In an interview, Pollak credited the rise of social media and digital content with making younger workers aware of global crises faster than their older counterparts.

"Members of all generations are purpose-driven and want to find meaning in their lives and in their work," Pollak said. "I think what's different today is because of the technology tools that we have, millennials and Gen Zs have a real sense of empowerment that they can make a difference by sending a tweet or making a video."

Other experts on philanthropy and multigenerational workplaces say companies need to lean into this sense of empowerment if they want to hire top-tier young talent.


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