The Yale Philanthropy Conference, recently hosted in New Haven, CT, was a celebration of the strides organizations have made in recent history when it comes to “doing good.” It also painted a picture of what’s next, and which trends brands should be aware of in order to stay current with the rising demand of Millennials. They want to be part of, rather than just witness, the corporate decisions that will impact the planet’s and society’s future.
A panel on “Measuring Impact” put a particular spin on the rising importance of recognizing Millennials' desire for more transparency when it comes to impact reporting. This should not come as a surprise, given that the younger generation of those born between 1982 and 1993 is now often the loudest voice in the room, demanding brands to step up and use their sphere of influence and consumer reach to affect positive change. But just “stepping up” doesn't cut it for them.
Once an organization has taken on a challenge that addresses a larger purpose – be it around environmental issues, human rights, health care, or any other important cause – Millennials demand to see tangible results. And don’t be mistaken, the standard, annual Sustainability or CSR Report won’t suffice or even remotely satisfy the Millennials inquisitive nature to make sure a real, measurable impact has been achieved. Brands will have to connect the sheer numbers game with meaningful stories of how their doings have positively changed people’s lives.
A great example for making Impact Reporting transparent is the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international NGO that is dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. The organization’s annual report features one single page with all financial numbers. (Note that it is the very last page in the report.)
All other pages focus on powerful storytelling, impactful images and personal anecdotes of people whose lives have been positively affected by the work HRW is doing. And the organization goes further to tell these compelling stories: film festivals, social media, photo essays, audio stories. There is no shortage in attempts to help people truly understand the importance of the organization’s work.
HRW manages to reduce the complexity of Social Impact Measurement, which so often turns into a beast these days, thereby making it uninspiring, and thus almost deems it irrelevant.
Paying close attention to the Millennials’ demand for powerful stories that inspire and connect us all will be a key requirement for brands who want to stay relevant and inspire people’s continuous engagement and participation. The outlook of “getting it right” is bright. Count on the advocacy of the Millennials you’re talking to. Because remember, they are the loudest voice in the room these days – and are likely to be for a while.
Dominik Prinz is a Director of Strategy for Intebrand.