A great deal has been written about how millennials are changing the workplace, which makes sense considering that they will constitute the largest demographic in the American workforce within the span of a couple years. However, less has been written about the impact that this generation is having on philanthropy, a concept that has been largely reinvented by millennials. As this generation matures and begins to earn a disposable income, its behavior is becoming more grounded and predictable than anyone would have guessed only a handful of years ago.
Millennials Lead the Charge in Terms of Generational Giving
A distinguishing feature of millennials is the fact that they are more likely to give than any other generation in history. According to the Millennial Impact Report published by the Case Foundation, 84 percent of millennial employees gave to charity in 2014, and 70 percent of people in this generation donated over an hour to a charitable cause during the same time period. While Baby Boomers and Generation Xers donate more, individuals need to consider that millennials earn significantly less than their counterparts did when they entered the workforce and face more student debt than ever before.
However, millennials have come of age in a unique period in time, which may contribute to their high rates of philanthropy. For example, the rise of mobile and online banking has made it easier than ever to transfer money. Furthermore, the digitization of the world means that millennials see and understand the issues faced by everyone in an unprecedented fashion. Many millennials use these causes as a rallying point to build community. In addition, millennials have faith in their ability to change the world because they have seen what collective action can achieve through concepts such as crowdfunding.
The Potential for Even More Millennial Giving in the Future
If millennials continue giving at the same rates that they currently are while increasing the amount they give as they earn more, they will go down in history as the most generous generation in the United States. As the number of millennials in the working population rises in the coming years, an increase in the amount given by the generation may increase sooner rather than later. All of this means that it will become more important for philanthropic organizations to reach out to this generation.
The increase in millennium giving is also expected to impact wealth transfer. This generation is set to inherit about $30 trillion from their baby boomer parents, one of the most significant instances of wealth transfer in history. Some academics in the field of philanthropy have pointed to this wealth transfer as the beginning of a golden era in giving that has the potential to last decades. The prediction may come true if charitable organizations recognize the importance of appealing to millennials and, more importantly, the fact that they have a radically different point of view than that of prior generations.
Understanding the Philanthropic Mindset of Millennials
One of the defining aspects of the millennial generation is a desire to get involved. Many charitable organizations are used to asking for very little aside from money. While millennials are willing to give money, they will also donate their time and energy. People who do not have money to give will volunteer with organizations or use their own social networks to generate more excitement about a cause. By engaging millennials on this level, the relationship between them and organizations becomes much deeper and encourages much more interaction than a single donation.
Moreover, millennials are interested in stories. While other generations have been more impressed by statistics, millennials are more motivated to help when they understand how an issue personally affects someone than by hearing how many people are affected. Due to social media, millennials see millions of messages in a given week. To stand out, organizations need to embrace the emotional side of their cause. Once millennials are drawn in by emotion, they want to know how an organization has specifically benefited individuals affected by the issue.
Millennials Focus on Social Impact
Philanthropic organizations can also appeal to millennials by giving them suggestions on effecting change in their everyday lives. The millennial generation largely sees social impact as a form of self-expression and believes that lasting change will come from individual decisions and actions rather than institutions. This point of view has resulted in the success of companies that blur the line between philanthropy and business, such as TOMS. While buying TOMS is a way of supporting people in need, wearing them in public sends a message to other people about social responsibility.
However, millennials still want to feel like they are part of a community of like-minded individuals. For this reason, using social media to connect with them and foster community is important. Organizations can think of this as a type of crowdsourcing. While the individual contributions of each person may be small, the collective contribution of a community can make change happen. Millennials have realized this fact, and organizations that follow suit can achieve great things in the years to come.