It Is Time Not Treasure For Young Americans

Younger socially-conscious individuals are increasingly offering their time to causes they care about, according to Influencing Young America to Act, a report from Cause and Social Influence. While 39% provided their contact information via a petition on a cause or organization’s website, and 28% signed a petition shared on social media, 22% offered professional services for which they would normally be paid to their preferred cause.

The summer 2021 edition of Cause and Social Influence’s report marked the first time donating time and expertise cracked the top three actions younger activists took, according to the report authors. Cause and Social Influence fielded its survey in late June. Results are based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 30.

Survey respondents remain leery of being employed by nonprofits. One-third mentioned low pay as a barrier to employment, while 16% feel the hours required, coupled with too few vacation opportunities, were a disincentive. Another 14% said the opportunities for advancement were minimal and just over one in 10 said shoestring budgets or unstable prospects for continued employment – possibly reflecting reports of downsizing or closures at nonprofits – were daunting.

Regarding why they took unpaid actions, these respondents appear to have been spurred by either advertisements or requests from the cause or nonprofit in question, with 44% citing online social media channels as influencing action. A similar amount responded to direct requests from their chosen cause, while just less than one quarter (24%) responded to an advertisement in an offline channel such as a print ad, billboard, or television, radio or streaming video service commercial. Few said they were influenced to take action as a result of being urged within their workplace.

A majority of respondents (54%) within these channels were influenced by individuals who create online content as social media influencers. Another 26% were moved by celebrities whose primary profession was something other than online content creation. Just more than one-third (36%) said they do not get their news from celebrities or online influencers.

Top social issues young activists supported included: animal rights and welfare; civil rights, including racial discrimination and social justice; mental health issues; and climate change concerns. Specific movements supported included Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Pride (the authors note the survey was fielded toward the end of Pride month) and #MeToo.

The research also revealed this cohort was more likely to have considered a presidential candidate’s stance on racial justice than any other issue during the 2020 election.