Why is it important for the third sector to communicate with Generation Z?

By Luisa Lima and Lavínia Xavier

The giving culture is characterized by people’s habit of sharing resources, time or talents with causes and organizations that benefit the community. Its strengthening is a gradual process, shaped over time by changes, new socio-environmental demands, and, above all, the active participation of society and its trust that such donations will indeed make a difference.

Youth plays an essential role in building this culture, with energy, creativity, and innovative perspectives on civic and philanthropic engagement. The ‘Future of Giving’ study conducted by sparks&honey indicates that young people seek more meaning in their donations and want to support organizations that generate sustainable long-term impact, indicating that purpose and the feeling of contributing positively are more valuable to the group than any other generation.

Access to instant information through the internet and social media brings young people closer to global events and challenges. Furthermore, education and awareness about these issues are increasingly present in everyday life. As new generations naturally develop a sharper awareness of socio-environmental issues affecting the world, they also tend to play a more active role in building and maintaining a long-term giving culture.

Brazil Giving Research 2022, promoted by IDIS and conducted by Ipsos, revealed that 84% of young people aged 18 to 27, known as ‘Generation Z,’ made some type of donation in 2022. This data shows a significant increase compared to the 2020 survey, in which 63% of respondents in the same age group claimed to have made donations. The most common forms of donation include the contribution of material goods (76%), followed by cash donations (43%) and donations of time/volunteer work (30%). Generation Z tends to donate proportionally more through volunteer work than the rest of the population and less in cash. This discrepancy can be attributed to the lower average income of this audience compared to older generations.

The research also reveals that young donors have a significant tendency to promote or contribute in some way to fundraising or mobilization campaigns. This data was confirmed by 7 out of 10 young donors in 2022, with 20% of them claiming to have done so on more than one occasion. The group also demonstrates greater optimism towards Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) compared to the general population. Among young people, 73% agree that NGOs play a fundamental role in addressing socio-environmental problems, and 83% agree with the statement that ‘NGOs depend on the collaboration of individuals and companies to obtain resources and function’.

Moreover, the Brazil Giving Research 2022 shows that 52% of Generation Z donors not only stated they plan to continue their donations but also believe they will donate more compared to the previous year. This openness indicates an opportunity for philanthropic organizations to engage with Generation Z.

Some initiatives have already understood the potential of youth engagement in socio-environmental causes. In the United States, DoSomething, self-described as an activism center inspiring young people to change the world, has motivated millions of them in all American states and in more than 189 countries to act on issues affecting their communities. According to the organization itself, these efforts resulted in achievements such as the registration of 415,000 new voters in the American elections.

Another example is the partnership between TikTok and the British initiative Blue Cross, dedicated to animal welfare. The organization received a $1 donation for each video shared with the hashtag #PetBFF. The campaign reached over 500 billion views only during its launch year in 2019. In Brazil, it is interesting to note that social media plays a relevant role in donation decisions, with 25% of young people admitting its influence in this process, compared to 17% of the general population. Among the most influential platforms for the public are Instagram (89%), Facebook (37%), and TikTok (13%).

The organization TETO, present in 18 countries, is dedicated to improving housing conditions and stands out for its robust volunteer program that attracts many young people and university students, including a specific pillar focused on school groups. The school and university environment plays a significant role in motivating young people to make donations and get involved in social causes, as also demonstrated by the Brazil Giving Research. 18% of Generation Z respondents claim to be influenced by campaigns held in their workplaces, schools, or colleges, compared to 14% of the general population.

These examples highlight how connecting with youth and identifying behavioral trends can generate results, create opportunities for active group involvement, strengthen the third sector and build a more robust giving culture.

It is true that, despite some promising examples, relatively few third-sector organizations and initiatives have actively engaged in direct communication and outreach to younger audiences. This can be attributed to various factors, including specific challenges in identifying the best communication strategies for Generation Z, as well as human resource limitations in organizations, which often operate with lean teams.

However, it is crucial to recognize the relevance of the opportunity that the third sector has to engage more people and raise more resources by directing its communication efforts towards Generation Z. It is necessary to closely observe the behavior, motivations, and trends of this group.

It is important for the Brazilian third sector to be attentive and open to adapting and connecting effectively with Generation Z, leveraging all its potential. The commitment of this generation to social causes, coupled with its technological proficiency, opens new doors for innovation and significant impact. Today’s youth represent the future of the third sector and should not have to wait for their potential to be recognized and demanded.

Global crises and the power of youth: highlights from the Philea Forum 2023

The Philea Forum 2023, one of the most important events in the European philanthropic ecosystem, took place between May 22nd and 25th in the city of Šibenik, Croatia. IDIS was present, represented by Guilherme Sylos, Director of Prospecting and Partnerships.

Under the theme “A new compass for Europe: Forged in crisis, Forward in hope”, the lectures addressed the various crises that have accumulated in recent years, both in Europe and worldwide. The discussions covered significant challenges stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as a keen focus on climate change, socioeconomic inequality, and growing tensions between countries.

In the midst of this context, the Philea Forum 2023 brought together over 700 people at the heart of the Euro-Mediterranean region to discuss what they call “European values” and how philanthropy can use them as a compass to face current challenges.

The opening plenary of the event addressed the landscape of European philanthropy and the importance of collaboration within the sector itself. Among the speakers was Nada Al-Nashif from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration to promote change:

“Equality, dignity, and justice are what unite us. We are calling on the philanthropic community to commit and, through vibrant partnerships, promote human rights”, she declared.

A research study was also presented, conducted with the participants of the event, about their perceptions regarding the performance of civil society organizations, donors, and the European philanthropic sector. The majority of respondents indicated that EU organizations should prioritize tackling climate change, followed by inequality.

Another highly debated topic during the meeting was the role of youth, their contributions, and obstacles in the fight against climate change, with a focus on the session ‘Building infrastructure to support resilient youth movements on climate: lessons from all over Europe’.

Katie Hodgetts shared her story as a climate activist, a process that earned her admiration from her peers and a sense of personal fulfillment, but also led her to face a difficult phase of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Inspired by her own story and that of thousands of other activists who also deal with the mental strain of their work, she created ‘The Resilience Project‘, an initiative that offers emotional support to climate activists.

The session also highlighted the current role of young people, who, through risky and disruptive ideas, can be some of the most powerful voices and agents in the fight against climate change. “Why are young climate activists effective? They are agile and outraged”, says Christian Vanizette, co-founder of makesense.

Several conversations focused on philanthropy, including reflections on its real impacts amid so many demands and its ultimate goals, which tend to be forgotten along the way.

In the debate session ‘Lessons learned over more than 30 years of philanthropy by a closing foundation’, Lynda Mansson from the MAVA Foundation shared the story of her organization’s closure, which, after 12 years of operation with a focus on biodiversity conservation, concluded that its goal had been achieved, and there was no longer a need to exist.

The closing session summarized the themes highlighted throughout the three days, with an even greater emphasis on youth and the potential for change that exists in movements formed and led by this group. The stage was reserved for representatives of the ‘new generation’ of young people who dedicate their days to seeking changes and positive impacts in the world.

“You wake up every day with anxiety, expecting bad news, and yet you brush your teeth and start your day. You maintain resilience. Young people are resilient and don’t realize that, often, what they are doing is democracy”, declares Anna Bondarenko, founder and director of the Ukrainian Volunteer Service.

The participants concluded with a simple but powerful message: ‘do good’. They also emphasized the importance of starting by looking at what is around us before any large-scale movement:

“How can we change the world, how can we change Europe, if we cannot change our local community, our family, our friends, our neighborhood? It’s simply impossible”, says 16-year-old Aleksej Leon Gajica, Junior Ambassador for the EU and for Children’s and Youth Rights at UNICEF.

The event highlighted the global similarities of problems and needs to be discussed and worked on by the private social investment sector, regardless of the region you are in.

“The issues are quite similar to ours in Brazil: trust, democracy, and freedom of expression. Furthermore, it is clear that combating climate change is a priority in Europe, another recurring and extremely important cause for the Brazilian and Latin American context,” comments Guilherme Sylos, Director of Prospecting and Partnerships at IDIS.