The Millennial Opportunity: Relevance, Values, and Participation

Those of you who are familiar with the Creating Connection research may recall that people under the age of 40 have strong values alignment with arts, culture, and creative expression.

And, if you’ve heard our presentation, you know that based on that values alignment, we believe that millennials represent a key stakeholder group for our field in the coming years.

When we share that data, we often get some quizzical looks from arts leaders. “Are we sure that millennials care about arts and creativity? Because they really aren’t showing up in our organizations…”

Frankly, those arts leaders are right.

According to new analysis by data guru Colleen Dilenschneider, millennials really aren’t visiting formal arts organizations at representative rates.

But…there’s hope. With the right mix of experiences, values-based programs, and commitment to relevancy, we may be able to show how our work aligns with the causes that matter to millennials.

The data: why millennials aren’t participating in “the arts” and what we can do about it

Throughout her analysis, Colleen Dilenschneider does what she does best – unpacks the data and raises critical questions about how our field might evolve.

Here are the primary takeaways from her recent post, Why Millennials Are Not “Aging Into” Cultural Organization Causes.

Millennials won’t age into caring about arts and cultural organizations when they get older or when they have kids.

Why? Instead of shifting priorities to new causes, millennials are showing “cause durability” -- carrying their primary causes and values with them as they enter new age groups.

The cultural industry needs to continue to evolve to stay relevant and responsive to younger audiences.

Creating Connection has talked at length about the importance of creating messages and programs that align with public values. And Colleen’s advice is completely aligned with our own – she recommends that organizations actively engage audiences in relevant, unique experiences.

Successfully engaging audiences means understanding their values and causes and respecting them so cultural organizations can be as relevant as possible.

If we aren’t engaging people (telling stories, creating relevant programs) such that we successfully build the case for what we stand for, then it’s more difficult to secure a visit, but potentially a lot more difficult to secure support. We can keep repeating, “Just wait. Millennials will care about [museums, zoos, aquariums, performing arts] when they get older…”…Or we could stop saying this and accept that sitting and waiting for new audiences to change – without evolving to actively be more relevant to this audience – is a bad strategy.

What’s next

Explore our case studies for examples from arts organizations across the country that have started to experiment with values-aligned messaging and programming.

Visit the blog archives for data on the power of engaging teens in relevant programming for more advice on how to woo those millennial audiences.

Banner image courtesy of Hyde Square Task Force.