Millennials Are Changing Philanthropy

Everywhere you look, people are talking about “Millennials”—the generation of Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000 that grew up in a largely digital world. All too often, out-of-touch Baby Boomers unjustly criticize Millennials. Older generations tend to stereotype Millennials as being “anti-social,” “lazy,” and “entitled.”

Once in a while though, somebody says something positive about Millennials. Such is the case with The New York Times, a publication that has seen it’s fair share of Millennial bashing. The New York Times recently wrote a piece about how Millennials are changing the world of philanthropy.

The gist of the article is that Millennials don’t give in the same way that their parents and grandparents did. While they’re just as likely to volunteer and donate, they’re also willing to leverage their social networks. Millennials use their personal connections to help draw support for the causes they care about.

Millennials have also proven to be more concerned with causes rather than organizations. As such, Millennials often demand that groups to which they donate to operate with full-blown transparency. Millennials are very picky when it comes to how much of a donation goes towards helping people and how much goes towards administrative costs. Millennials value nonprofits that put the majority of their donations towards their mission rather than managerial costs.

They also want to see how their gifts are impacting people, whether that’s by hearing about the specific people they are helping, or through more broad terms, like frequent updates from the organization on how their gifts are being put into action. The days of writing a check or plunking money into a jar and then forgetting about it are over. Millennials are deeply connected with one another and the world around them, and they want to be connected to their charitable efforts as well.

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Millennials Prefer Volunteering to Donation

Millennials, those people who are now between the ages of 18 and 34, tend to get a bad wrap. They are often accused of not working hard enough, or expecting too much out of the opportunities they do have. Some older folk seem to think that all millennials are self-important children, who think they’re important or special because they all got participation awards when they were young (given to them, ironically enough, by the same generations that are complaining about it now).

But millennials have inherited a pretty broken economy, a faltering infrastructure, and a generally terrible job market. Millennials are often underemployed, with many working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Despite all this though, many still find time to help out in their communities.

According to a study from Achieve, a research agency, 77% of millennials would prefer to donate their time and find a charity they can help with a skill or expertise they’ve developed. Considering that many millennials are over-educated and underemployed, this isn’t terrible surprising. It’s easier to help out than to donate money, and it’s generally more personally rewarding.

The study also found that millennials tended to focus their energy on charities which were related to issues that directly affect people in their lives. Doing so allows them to bring a level of passion to their work that older volunteers may lack. These young people know that things aren’t perfect for them, and that it could be worse, and often is for people in their own communities or families.

In light of this new information, maybe it’s time people let up on millennials? They’ve been handed a rough situation and told it’s their own fault, but they’re not only making the best they can in those circumstances, some of them are also managing to help others at the same time.