In a major boost for Indianapolis last week, the Circle City hosted MCON13 in conjunction with the release of the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, a national conversation on how to engage my generation. Like many my age strapped with college debt, I decided against spending the ironic $450 to attend in person and instead watched for free online. It was very interesting though as leading experts characterized us by our ubiquitous use of technology, propensity to support causes over organizations and attraction to social inclusion in causes. Refreshingly, it was a respectful and meaningful conversation targeted towards non-profits trying to better engage Millennials.
A lot of attention has been paid lately to the Millennial generation born between 1982-2004 . (See: Time Magazine’s journalistic malpractice and a funny rebuttal.) As we come into adulthood, companies are trying to find the right niche for how to advertise to us and get us to buy their products. Figuring out the single perfect message to appeal to a critical mass of my cohort is laughable given the fact that we are most diverse generation ever. Nevertheless, Millienials spend $600 billion annually and Madison Avenue in a search for profit has trudged ahead producing lame attempts to appeal to me based on stereotypes, fleeting trends and hyperbole. (See: Fishy Fishy Part 1, Part II and Honda Civic for particularly misguided efforts.) This made MCON13 particularly valuable to a lot of interests trying to find a meaningful connection with us.
How folks communicate with us is incredibly important and we need better information to make decisions from what to buy, causes to support and whom to vote for. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report shows hope for increasing Civic Engagement. While close to 83% of Millennials surveyed gave a financial gift to an organization in 2012, 84% made their gift online [pg 28]. This is an encouraging indication of more thorough research prior to action, albeit online. However, as evidenced by the huge drop off in 18-29 voter turnout between the 2008 Presidential (50%) and 2010 Mid-term Elections (24%), Millennials are notoriously dubious when it comes to citizenship.
The diverging data about Millennial participation in Civil Society is telling of the need for innovative engagement tools and many emerging Civic Startups are on the case. For example, the founders of TurboVote sought to make voting easy using online tools. Younger people are much more likely to move often or have multiple addresses, making the process of constantly going to the post office or BMV to fill out boxes with a pen very inconvenient. Instead, with TurboVote you can sign up to get text message reminders for elections and they’ll automatically send you an absentee ballot with stamped return envelope. I applaud Civic Startups like TurboVote and the efforts surrounding MCON13 that respectfully welcome Millennials into citizenship.
Matt Impink is a former US History Teacher and Education Policy Advocate. He is currently a Graduate Student at IU’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) in Indianapolis. Howe, Neil & Strauss, William (1992). Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: Harper Collins: 421.