The Curious Rise of Millennial Charitable Giving

Anyone who ever reads anything on the internet has probably noticed how much members of older generations love to hate on millennials. You know us. We’re Americans born between approximately the early-to-mid 1980s and the mid-1990s. They say we’re entitled, lazy, selfish, underworked, and over-coddled.

young people sitting in a cafe
What do we have here? Millennials in their true element.

We’re “killing” industries (who don’t want to adjust to our needs and values). We’re delicate snowflakes. Is any of this even fair? It’s hard to create labels that work for 71 million people. But in one area, at least, we *sparkle.* Recent data on millennial charitable giving shines light on some of our better qualities.

Making Millennials

It hasn’t always been an easy road for the Millennial Generation. The bookends of our childhood were the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the 2008 financial crisis. Very uplifting, no? At least we were old enough to vote in the 2008 election, which resulted in the first Black president of the United States. 

Ours was the most diverse generation this country has seen yet (though we’ve since been eclipsed by Gen Z on that front). We became adults in the midst of a major economic crisis. 

This has influenced our educational, personal, and professional choices and reorganized our priorities in ways we’re still discovering. On average, it means our young adulthood has looked a lot different from our parents’ and grandparents’, but that’s because our context was different.

We lived with our parents longer, often returning home after college, and we have been delaying certain milestones of adulthood such as car ownership, homeownership, marriage, and parenthood because of a stagnating economy and just a little bit (or a LOT) too much college debt.

All this talk about money probably has you thinking that Millennials don’t know how to give back. Well, I’ve got good news for you.

Millennial Philanthropy

woman holding a picket sign
Millennial philanthropy is also about getting out there to advocate for our causes.

Though much-maligned and despite our relatively recent entrée into full-fledged adulthood, millennial charitable giving and participation in volunteer activities are on par with the generations before us (who, thanks to age and the nature of the economy in their early years, have much more disposable income than we do at the moment). 

Number of millennials giving to charity

Let’s start with the numbers. Non-Profit Source’s 2018 survey reported that 84% of Millennials give to charity. That’s not too shabby when you compare it with 72% of Baby Boomers and 88% of the Greatest Generation.

Plus, we’re just getting started. People get more generous over the course of their lifespan, so who knows how many more of us will be in a position to make donations to causes we believe in ten or 20 years from now. 

It’s not only about cash when we’re talking about millennial charitable giving. We also give our time. Sixty-four percent of us still volunteer locally. Nine percent of us volunteer abroad. We’ve found time to get involved in these activities all while trying to find our way in the working world in the midst of a struggling economy.

Through it all, we’ve kept pace with Gen Xers (64% local, 8% international) and even Baby Boomers (71% local, 9% international), many of whom are already retired—which, of course, frees up some time.

How millennials give back

While the rates of millennial philanthropy are similar to those of generations prior, the nature of millennial charitable giving is a bit different. Many of us enroll in monthly giving programs, likely because we don’t yet feel we’re in a financial position to make large-sum donations all at once.

Of course, another thing that’s true about us, for better or for worse, is that on the whole, we’re tech-savvy. Our use of computers, cell phones, the internet, comes naturally. We come by it honestly—we all grew up together! 

Our relationship with technology means we favor crowdfunding and mobile donations, respond to outreach via text messages or videos shared on social media and aren’t afraid to make donations on #GivingTuesday and via online fundraising.

Our digital lives and the constant stream of information that they deliver us seem to be part of what stokes our commitment to causes: we are aware of the challenges facing our world, we’re optimistic about the future, we know the power of the dollar, and the internet makes donating so easy. So we give time, money, and our Twitter feeds to causes that matter to us. Maybe social media isn’t all bad?

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Get Giving

crowd at the women’s march
Get going and help prove that it’s business as usual when millennials give back.

All this feel-good millennial talk probably has you feeling even more optimistic about the future of humanity and your place in it.

The GoAbroad Foundation’s projects in Rwanda, Uganda, or the Philippines tackle a variety of challenges in local communities, from hot school lunches to building homes, to helping kids take music lessons. There’s bound to be at least one cause you’re ready to support, and there are new projects being added all the time.

Once you’ve had the chance to explore, pick one (or more) and donate here

But first, go add this article to Uncle Gary’s Facebook feed to break up the constant stream of #Millennial punchlines. Millennial philanthropy is no laughing matter.

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Post originally written by Amelia Dietrich, GoAbroad Writer’s Academy Member