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Friday, August 3, 2018

Applying Millennial Research to Free-Market Education

FEE has been conducting extensive research into how Millennials think and behave; these are some of the results of that research.

To further FEE’s “YEAR” project to define new and better ways to communicate the humane values of free-market economics to Millennials, FEE has conducted a survey of existing market research on effectively messaging Millennials. This will enhance the understanding of Millennials that FEE developed in a 2017 study conducted by MarketLab.

Below, we present selected findings which we believe to be especially useful for improving our messaging for the YEAR project.

Millennials prefer the label “advocate” or “supporter” to “activist”

Millennials care how they are defined. According to The Millennial Impact Report, they prefer the label “advocate” or “supporter” to “activist” when it comes to sharing the message of an organization.1 In general, Millennials prefer language that sounds open-minded, peaceful, and welcoming. In the researchers’ words:

“Millennials are quietly, yet powerfully, redefining the terms ‘cause engagement’, ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’ and ‘activist’ by the sheer force of their everyday lives. Hesitant to be perceived as confrontational, Millennials may be more comfortable with a term such as ‘advocate’ rather than ‘activist’ to describe cause engagement, especially at higher levels of participation.”2

Digital first-impressions matter

Today, first impressions are often digital—and digital first impressions are very important to Millennials. “When the surveyed Millennials go to nonprofit websites, nearly 9 out of 10 of them will go first to the page that describes the mission of the organization.”3

Caution should also be taken when choosing communication channels. Although Millennials are a text-savvy generation, they have clearly signaled that they do not want to be texted by nonprofits.

“Text messaging is for personal use. I don’t want them from businesses or nonprofits, just from friends.”3

Email remains to be the preferred method of communication for this generation. According to the Millennial Impact Report, “93 percent of respondents favoring it for receiving information from organizations.”3

Millennials are drawn by organizations that offer professional development and networking opportunities

Having explored some of the best practices of how to communicate, we turn toward what to communicate. Communicating through professional development is highly effective with this generation. Millennials are drawn by organizations that offer professional development opportunities and events. According to the Millennial Impact Report, “Forty percent said they would be interested in joining a young professional organization, and 44 percent were unsure.”3 In other words, 88 percent want, or are open, to joining a young professional organization.

“If the organization has ways of further developing a career, that makes them even better in my book.”3

The study drills deeper to reveal that “networking (77 percent) and professional development (75 percent) were key factors for Millennials to join these groups.”3 Millennials are also incentivized to join by the prospect of meeting other people their age with similar interests. After joining, 66 percent were willing to become advocates for the organization.

Millennials are more inclined to believe in the power of the individual to make change

Once your audience has entered the customer funnel, the next step is to engage them. While attraction will get their attention, engagement is the lasting connection which will lead to advocacy. Two things need to be understood about an audience to encourage engagement: (1) their perspective and (2) their pain points.

Millennials are more inclined to believe in the power of the individual to make change. “More than 70% of our respondents felt they had the capacity to improve issues they care about, with about one-third believing they could make a big impact and another one-third a moderate one.”2

Millennials want personal experience and active engagement in causes they care about

Due to this perspective of individual agency, Millennials want to actively participate in causes they care about. They participate for the cause itself but also to ensure the transparency of the cause.

“Seeing the difference I make”3 is an influential factor.

“When I participate, I want it to be about being part of something positive rather than just feeling sorry about something negative.”3

“I would like to be part of what [the nonprofit] is doing so I can be really involved in planning and know what funding is going for and if I agree with it or not.”3

Top 4 issues Millennials are concerned about

The pain points of Millennials also stem from their perspective. According to FEE’s 2017 study4, the top four issues Millennials are concerned about today are:

  1. Terrorism
  2. Cost of education
  3. Government corruption
  4. Poverty

Millennials question the efficacy of government

Millennials’ faith in government seems to be wavering, which is consistent with their belief in the individual. This lack of faith extends to political parties as well: “Millennials don’t feel loyalty toward political parties, but instead vote based on which issues they care about and which candidates they believe best speak to those issues,”3 reports the Millennial Impact Report. As a result, “Millennials are looking for government to become less divisive in order to accommodate what they see as society’s increasing open mindedness toward many formerly contentious social issues.”3 Millennials believe government intervention is necessary in areas of disaster relief (70 percent), arts and culture (58 percent), international issues (58 percent), and transportation/transit (50 percent):

In contrast, Millennials do not trust government when it comes to issues that relate to the individual: poverty (33 percent), race/culture (32 percent), student loans (30 percent), LGBT (27 percent), veterans’ affairs (25 percent).


To convert Millennials into advocates, the first step is attraction. Attraction, or the process of first engaging your audience in the customer funnel, is best achieved by appealing to their interests through the right channels. It is important to avoid turn-offs such as a messy website or sending updates through text-messaging.

After attraction, customers must be drawn into a long-term engagement with your brand. This requires understanding the Millennial mindset. Their top concerns are education, employment, healthcare, and the economy. Millennials are not willing to rely on government or institutions to make societal changes they see as important. Instead, they see themselves and their peers as the best catalysts for social change.

FEE aims to change the Millennial mindset—to guide those seeking to create a flourishing society through the power of the individual in a free and humane society. FEE’s YEAR project, built on a foundation of existing research such as what has been summarized here, will spearhead this aim by defining new and better ways to communicate with Millennials about the humane values and ethical principles of a free society.

FEE has been a leading non-profit organization in teaching the principles of a free society since its founding in 1946 by Leonard E. Read. Today, FEE focuses on introducing freedom as a life philosophy to young newcomers, striving to bring about a world in which the economic, ethical, and legal principles of a free society are familiar, credible, and compelling to the next generation. FEE produces the annual FEEcon event, student seminars, free online courses, classroom resources, and engaging classic and contemporary content available at and on social media. FEE is supported solely by contributions from individuals, private foundations, and businesses and by the sale of our publications. We invite you to advance liberty with us at

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[1] Millennial Dialogue on the Landscape of Cause Engagement and Social Issues

[2] Cause Engagement During a U.S. Presidential Election Year

[3] Top 100 Findings From the Millennial Impact Project

[4] FEE Millennial / Gen Z Study

  • The Foundation for Economic Education, founded 1946, works for a free and prosperous world.