My generation is narcissistic, self-entitled and immature.
That's the conclusion you might draw after reading some of the critical and accusatory stories that have circulated in the media these past few months. The New York Times, Harvard Business Review and other outlets have fretted about the fate of Gen Y while calling us self-absorbed and lazy.
Doubtless, those words do describe some among us (just as they apply to individuals in any age group). But I refuse to believe they define us. Instead, when I look at my friends and peers, what stands out to me is our desire to make the world a better place.
I'm talking about Gen Yers I know who organize annual Earth Day waterway cleanups that draw hundreds of participants. Another group spent a recent spring break in New Orleans helping to rebuild the homes of flood victims. Still others drove across swing states in 2008 campaigning door-to-door for a presidential candidate they believed in. I even know a 26-year-old who is director of impact at a nonprofit organization designed to build schools and increase educational opportunities in less fortunate communities around the world.
I'm not the only one who recognizes these positive qualities in my contemporaries.
This year, IBM surveyed more than 3,600 students in more than 40 countries and found they had "a sense of shared responsibility for society and the environment" and a desire for organizations to do a better job of balancing their economic performance with their societal and environmental performance. One respondent referred to "the idea of becoming a global citizen, responsible to others and the world."
These are the things we value, and we like to align our money with our ideals.
A 2010 study from Cone LLC, a strategy and communications agency, found that Millennials (ages 18-24) are second only to mothers in their openness toward brands that support a cause. Ninety-four percent find cause marketing acceptable, and 53% have bought a product benefitting a cause this year. Additionally, 87% of Millennials said a company's support of social or environmental issues is likely to influence their decision about where to work, and 79% said it would influence their decision about where to invest.
Some CUs are already harnessing our passion for causes to great effect.
Central 1, the trade association for credit unions in British Columbia, has called on young adults in that province to help distribute $100,000 to local charities. The group set up a Facebook page with albums filled with photos of 16 different regions in the province. Every time users tag themselves or their friends in a photo representing their area, B.C. credit unions will donate $1 to a local charity. To date, more than 63,000 tags have been generated and the page has more than 22,700 "likes." A video on the campaign's landing page, BeRemarkable.com, displays the slogan, "Acting locally, thinking globally."
That says it all, really.
Spread the word to young people in your area that, like buying locally grown food from a farmer's market or purchasing fair trade products, joining your credit union is another way they can vote with their dollars to make the world a better place. And of course, they benefit as well. Just as cutting back on energy consumption lowers utility bills while reducing one's carbon footprint, credit unions save money for their members while enriching their communities.
But don't young people want convenience, instant gratification, a branch on every corner? Not if you explain that convenience can have consequences. Fast food is convenient, but it's not good for our bodies or the environment. If young people realize that what credit unions lack compared to banks, they make up for in areas like member service and social justice, they'll be willing to find online/mobile banking and shared ATM networks an acceptable alternative to omnipresent branches.