Gen Z FAQs: How to Win and Influence Youth In 2019 And Beyond

What’s the deal with Generation Z? What makes them different from other generations? We recently hosted our second webinar on the topic of engaging Gen Z. If you missed the first webinar, “A Conversation with Gen Z,” you’ll want to listen to the recording, as it sets the stage for the discussion on how to influence this generation.

In this webinar, “Winning and Influencing Youth In 2019 And Beyond,” speakers Linda Ingersoll, Chief Engagement Strategist at MDR, and Laura Freveletti, Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager for The Allstate Foundation, presented the findings of our first-ever Gen Z Influence Meter survey. The survey examined how parents, teachers, and friends influence today’s youth. Below you’ll find answers to some of the most-asked questions by the live webinar audience. The audience included brands like Verizon, Walgreens, and Heineken, and nonprofits like Save the Children, World Wildlife Fund, and Wounded Warrior Project.

Download the slides or watch the recording here.

Gen Z Influence Meter Study

In the fall of 2018, we set out to understand who influences today’s youth most when it comes to key areas that corporations and nonprofits care about – academics, career and life choices, values, and extracurricular activities. While we know Gen Z has an abundance of influencers—celebrities, religious organizations, sports, Snapchat, to name a few—we focused our study on three primary groups in their sphere of influence: Teachers, Parents, and Close Friends. Why? Because these are the three groups with whom they spend the most in-person time!

What we found was that each of these groups has “the most” influence over Gen Z in very different ways. We will be releasing a whitepaper in the next two weeks that dives into the results from this research study, so stay tuned to get your free copy!

Gen Z Webinar Q&As

1. What is the definition of “Gen Z”? And what is the difference between Gen Z and Millennials?

Although agreed-upon date ranges vary, we’ve defined Generation Z as people born between 1996-2010, which currently includes students from second grade through the end of college. Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are people born between the early 1980s-mid 1990s. Today’s millennials are now experienced teachers and parents, while Gen Zers are middle, high school, and college students.

Perhaps one of the most important characteristics for all of us who are trying to engage with Gen Zers is that they want their lives to make a difference. Imagine the opportunity: A force 61 million strong in the U.S—pragmatic, passionate social activists who actually get things done—are now entering the workforce, purchasing products, and leading the change for good in our society. They expect business to give back, and they use their buying power as a vehicle to activism.

2. What are some of the platforms or channels where companies are reaching youth, and what engages/interests them most? What’s breaking through the noise?

We have seen organizations be successful reaching youth through social and online channels, but also through traditional channels like email and even IRL (in real life). For example, The Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young program works with strategic partners and uses a multi-channel approach to establish an authentic presence with Gen Z. Through posting articles about inspiring kids and teens to volunteer, and hosting contests to increase signups for their WE Volunteer Now program, it has been able to provide millions of young people with tools and resources to identify the causes most important to them and plan and lead volunteer projects to support them.

This October, for instance, The Allstate Foundation hosted a live event in Washington DC in which they invited students, parents, and teachers to the National Mall to inspire young people to envision bright futures for themselves. Youth were asked to step up on one of 10 pedestals with aspirational inscriptions, take a photo, and share on social media with #GoodStartsYoung. The event generated media buzz as well as lots of traction and engagement on social media from both students and teachers.

3. How are employers involved with empowering this generation? How can you influence the career paths or academic interests of today’s youth?

For those hoping to bring more Gen Zers into your workforce pipeline, particularly STEM career paths, the more you can do to educate and build excitement with teachers about the careers of the future, the better prepared students will be. In our study, Gen Z ranked teachers as the #1 influencer when it comes to choosing possible career path/major/favorite subject – especially when we look at middle- and low income households.

A great example of a nonprofit engaging with teachers to influence students’ career paths is The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Through its Nature Works Everywhere site, TNC held a Virtual STEM Career Fair. In this live, virtual event, middle and high school students heard from professionals who are following their passions through careers in engineering, conservation, the environment, and more. The panel discussion was recorded and can be accessed online by teachers, students, or parents interested in learning more about STEM careers.

4. How can nonprofits engage with youth to prompt them to become involved in charitable giving/fundraising?

Educators are often willing to volunteer for a good cause, and can be a great resource for rallying their students to support your organization. When considering how to get this generation to help fundraise for a nonprofit, think about aligning classroom resources to service learning requirements: 50% of states require or give credit for service learning.

Another tip is to make it as easy as possible for this tech-savvy generation to donate or fundraise online. Gen Zer’s say that they would overwhelmingly prefer using Venmo for donations. Now, you can even donate via Alexa. That said, email is still an effective vehicle to reach educators and who could encourage students to get involved in raising money or donating money. For one nonprofit client, we launched a fundraising email campaign targeting around 40,000 teachers. Over the course of one year we ultimately reached 1.5 million students in the US.

5. How can we attract young people to national service opportunities, such as AmeriCorps, or encourage them to volunteer in their local communities?

We know that at least a quarter of this generation already volunteers. However, in trying to encourage civic engagement and volunteering, our survey found that parents have the most influence, slightly higher than teachers and friends. We were surprised that the numbers weren’t higher overall, however it may be that Gen Z is more naturally influenced by their own first-hand experiences or worldview when it comes to volunteering. In general, today’s youth seem to value the opinions of certain trusted adults: We believe that engaging with their educators and parents is the best strategy to get them interested in volunteering starting at a young age. One interesting thing to note is that teachers were substantially more powerful influencers among Black and Hispanic respondents.

6. You mentioned SEL, what does this stand for and why is it important for brands?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

When asked in our Gen Z influence study who has influenced their social/emotional well-being, respondents said that friends are extraordinarily powerful influences, especially when we look at the younger age group of 13-15 year old’s. Keep in mind that while friends have the strongest impact on a child’s feeling of well-being, there is much that teachers and parents can do to help children learn to be more socially and emotionally resilient.

The survey also found that in households with the lowest income levels, parents become a slightly negative influence and teacher influence rises over stress management, goal setting, time management. Clearly, there is an opportunity for brands to help both teachers and parents become better coaches and mentors to young people in these areas.

7. Why did Allstate choose to invest in the issue of youth empowerment, and how has Allstate seen success with its philanthropic focus on Social and Emotional Learning?

Laura Freveletti shared with us that Allstate strongly believes that corporations must play a role in solving critical social issues, as government and social services organizations often can’t do it on their own. Through research with its stakeholders, Allstate discovered that youth empowerment was of utmost concern, specifically in the area of Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  Research has shown that SEL skills like grit, perseverance, empathy, conflict resolution, and self-awareness are critical to long-term success and as important, if not more important, than academics.

As demonstrated by its five-year, $45 million investment to empower millions of youth by building social and emotional learning skills, The Allstate Foundation is using its reach and influence to address this issue and create long-term systemic change for good. Working together with nonprofit and for-profit partners has allowed the organization to bring credibility, scale, and reach to its programming. One way the company has seen success in reaching Gen Z is through a key influencer of youth: educators. Together with MDR, Allstate developed and shared free resources for teachers through the WeAreTeachers social channels to increase engagement with the WE Schools Volunteer Now program. Over the course of a 2-year partnership with MDR, they have been able to double registrations for the program.

For more information about MDR’s Gen Z Influence Meter survey or to arrange for an in-person presentation at your offices for you and your colleagues, please contact us. And for more insights into how to best reach and engage Gen Z through their key influencers, visit MDR’s Gen Z Resources page.