How Millennials are finding their Why of Wealth through social entrepreneurship

As the largest generation in the workforce, millennials have a unique opportunity to make their marks

Among the many ways in which millennials are changing the workplace is their demand for meaning. From the earliest days of their careers, these young professionals have sought out purpose and a means of contributing real value to the world around them. Because the desire to do good is a core millennial value, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship are natural next steps for this generation.

The millennial connection in philanthropy

Millennial entrepreneurs are particularly concerned about making a positive impact. In a Boston Private study, The Why of Wealth, researchers sought to gain a better understanding of High Net Worth Individuals and their wealth priorities. The Why of Wealth research found that 51 percent of millennials surveyed seek to foster change in their communities and in the world, while 40 percent want to help improve society. Someone who has already launched a successful for-profit company is uniquely positioned to start a philanthropic initiative because they bring a considerable amount of business and strategic savvy.

Young people are increasingly concerned about issues such as healthcare and climate change, and successful entrepreneurs can help move the needle on these and other issues by establishing social impact companies and philanthropic organizations designed to find and deliver solutions. But creating a social impact company isn't the only way millennials can contribute. Impact investing is growing in popularity, with the market hitting $228 billion in 2017, and with good reason. As people become more conscientious about the types of companies they support and how they earn their money, millennials can support businesses with explicit social missions that are designed to uplift communities and drive progress on specific goals. Donating to a philanthropic organization is another excellent way to learn about a given cause and begin making an immediate impact.

Philanthropic leaders understand the areas in which they work, and they can educate donors on their critical needs as well as their long-term initiatives and goals. Millennials can begin by giving strategically while gaining knowledge about their chosen cause. From there, they may decide to launch their own philanthropic organization or start a company that provides solutions where they're most needed.

A commitment to social entrepreneurship has driven the success of companies such as Warby Parker, which sells high-quality eyeglasses at affordable prices but emphasizes its social good component in its recruiting tactics and internal messaging. The company operates a "Buy a Pair, Give a Pair" program, donating a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair purchased by a customer. Although the customers themselves care more about the cost and quality of the glasses, the company has said the social mission remains the driving motivator.

A generational legacy

Families who have long-standing philanthropic practices can also guide their millennial relatives who may be looking for ways to give back. If several generations have been involved with a particular cause, it's a good idea to share the values and philosophy behind that strategy with successful young people in the family. Whether they decide to take up the family mantel or pursue their own causes, they'll understand why philanthropy matters and how they can use their wealth to achieve great things.

Importantly, they'll know they have family mentors who can show them the way when it comes to choosing philanthropic partners and seeking out trusted financial advisors to counsel them on giving and tax strategies. With a history of entrepreneurs in the family, millennials will then have a wealth of resources on which to draw from when charting a course toward combining their business skills and charitable impulses.

It's never too early to think about social entrepreneurship and building a philanthropic legacy. Millennial entrepreneurs who establish philanthropic practices now will have decades to learn, experiment and pivot, just as they do in their companies. They'll be able to drive real change on the causes that matter to them and leave a lasting, meaningful impact on the world.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.