Bottom 10 Again? A Call to Engagement

July 2018


WalletHub has made it harder for Florida to attract new businesses and talent by telling Millennials they don’t want to live here. Florida ranked 42nd for best places to live for Millennials in a recent article. ( While we ranked in the bottom half in all five categories, our worst showing was in “civic engagement” at 50th! To be fair, WalletHub is not the first to say such things and won’t be the last, until we change this. Let this be a Call to Engagement to all our citizens and business leaders to step up!

Just 18% of Florida Millennials volunteer, and only 2% attended a public meeting or got involved in fixing a community problem. This is important because these relatively uninvolved Millennials will soon be the largest workforce and voting cohort and are already responsible for 21% of all consumer discretionary spending in the U.S. Florida’s low rankings in civic engagement are not isolated to Millennials and are consistent with past reports. According to a 2013 study from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Florida ranked 48th with only 21% of adults volunteering. Orlando ranked 46th out of 51 large cities with 19% volunteering.

Why should we care that we don’t seem to care? Investing time and resources to build stronger communities yields real business and economic returns. Research indicates that communities with a higher level of “attachment” and engagement have a higher local GDP. People and businesses are drawn to communities that invest in themselves, demonstrating things like a track record of public-private partnerships, a vibrant downtown, and a deeply engaged community.

Supporting communities where you operate and do business is good business. According to the 2017 Cone Study, “Americans expect companies to invest in social issues and be a force for change.” And consumers are empowered with their dollars and their public voice to influence companies to invest in communities. 92% of consumers have a more positive image of a company, and 87% would switch brands if they knew a company gave back. Employees prefer to volunteer through their company, and 97% of employees feel more loyal to a company that gives back.

“The problem is that, as citizens, many of us are not all that involved,” Mark Brewer, President of Central Florida Foundation, said in response to a 2014 Central Florida survey. “Job No. 1 is engagement -- getting people to work on solutions together.”

There are theories about why we are so uninvolved – our transient population of retirees and transplants and our low wage economy; but the important thing is that we change it. Complex community issues like homelessness and education inequity can be solved when citizens from all sectors work collaboratively, investing their time and money and advocating for change. People of all ages and companies of all sizes that live and operate in our community must heed this Call to Engage, find something to stand up for, and work together to build a stronger community and a stronger economy.

Leslie Hartog

Co-founder and CEO, The Community Seal

The network for non-profits, businesses, and people committed to giving back

Co-chair, 100 Women Strong

A women’s giving circle and an initiative of Central Florida Foundation
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