social cause

2018 is coming to a close, which means it’s time for us to reflect on the year’s big wins — as well as the things we’d like to change in 2019. But even setting New Year’s resolutions can feel like defeat: U.S. News & World Report notes that 80 percent of resolutions fail.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that The Marist Poll found only 44 percent of Americans were very or somewhat likely to set New Year’s resolutions. The problem doesn’t rest with the resolutions themselves, however — it has to do with a lack of planning.

For many Millennials, who value social responsibility, supporting a cause is a big focus, especially when setting New Year’s resolutions. With some creative thinking and proactive planning, they can make a bigger impact on the causes they care about in 2019.

How Resolutions Get Derailed

U.S. News’ Joseph Luciani explained that simply wanting to change isn’t enough: People have to find ways to stay motivated longer than they have in the past, or they have to find ways to better ward off stress. “Wanting it” just doesn’t cut it.

Some people get off track because they don’t set concrete goals. “Give back more” or “help raise funds for Charity X” mean well, but these resolutions are vague — how will the person setting them know whether she’s failed or succeeded? Technically, writing a $10 check or helping out at a single volunteer opportunity would check the box, but that’s not really the intention behind the goal. Something more specific like “Volunteer with Charity X twice per month” or “raise a minimum of $250 for Charity X” clearly defines success.

Others simply set conflicting resolutions. If you want to get in shape, earn a promotion, see your friends at least once a week, join a networking group, and give back to your favorite charity — all in the same year — something’s got to give. Plotting your true logistical constraints can be a huge help. After blocking off time for work, sleep, and set-in-stone obligations, you see you have 32 hours per week to use as you like. How will you divide the time?

The truth is that when it comes to making a difference for important causes or people, the disappointment of failure can sting more than other failed resolutions. Guilt can set in when we’ve failed to do things we truly wanted to, but didn’t. Add to that the knowledge that we haven’t supported or boosted a cause we truly care about, and the guilt compounds.

Making a Plan to Succeed

The causes we care about don’t need all of our effort; they need whatever we can give. Keeping that perspective makes it clear that there are lots of ways we can squeeze “giving back” into our plan for 2019:

Combine your efforts. If you’ve made it a goal to both socialize more and support a local animal shelter, invite a friend to join you when walking dogs from the shelter. If you want to get in shape and help your local environmental group, get involved with planting trees or sorting recycling to kill two birds with one stone.

Another option is to incorporate fundraising into the way you earn an income. ONEHOPE, a wine company whose Cause Entrepreneurs do wine tastings to benefit nonprofits, is one outlet that enables you to combine socializing and charity work. “Having a business with ONEHOPE not only means people can add to their income, but it also gives them an opportunity to have some fun and make an impact at the same time,” explains Jake Kloberdanz, CEO of ONEHOPE. “They bring Napa-style wine tastings into the homes of their friends, family, and community while supporting a cause that is near and dear to the host and event attendees.”

Create systems to trick yourself into doing more. Loopholes are often used as escapes, but you can create loophole-like systems to force yourself to do more of what you want. If you’re looking to donate more to a chosen charity this year, round up your purchases and set the money aside to donate. You could also commit to giving any Craigslist earnings to your cause or to donating a dollar for every personal milestone you hit (run completed, day without soda, etc.).

Join a board. It’s easy to back out of commitments to our favorite causes when we feel like we’re benchwarmers. Joining a board is a good way to force yourself off the sidelines and into the game. Even better, you’ll see the direct impact you’re making through the decisions you influence and the actions you take.

Colleen Dilenschneider, the chief market engagement officer at IMPACTS Research & Development, says many nonprofit boards suffer from a lack of Millennial involvement, but her board membership has paid dividends. “Short of being hired to lead a major institution by working my way up the totem pole, I cannot think of another opportunity in which a passionate 33 year old like myself could grapple with strategic challenges facing a major institution – and do so alongside experienced, similarly passionate people,” she says. “There is not a single committee meeting, phone call, or conversation…in which I don’t learn something about how to run an important organization.”

Tie your cause efforts to something you want. Sometimes, deprivation is the best way to spur yourself into action. Box yourself into getting your cause work done by attaching it to something else: a Netflix binge night, a happy hour, a new pair of headphones. Don’t let yourself do the easy thing you want until you’ve met your own standards, such as 5 hours of volunteer work or 50 envelopes licked.

We often know exactly which cause we want to support, but we don’t make it easy for ourselves to actually support it. By creating fail-safes or making a bigger commitment, you can ensure that 2019 is the year you’re proud of how much you’ve given back.