Millennials get a bad rap. People say that we’re slacktivists. We will conveniently like a post on Facebook to support a friend’s kid’s cancer recovery or tweet about our disagreement of the Keystone Pipeline, but we wouldn’t donate money or get out to vote.
But this just isn’t true. Eighty-five percent of millennials gave to charity when compelled by a mission or cause in 2011, and 84 percent volunteered, according to the Millennial Impact Survey. We aren’t giving big bucks — in 2012, most millennials’ biggest gift was less than $150. However, we gave to an average of five nonprofits. Plus, 87 percent of us expected to give to at least as many nonprofits the following year.
Millennials are also more likely to give back in different ways than older generations. Internet activism is a big piece of it. Millennials primarily use social media when deciding which charity to donate to and how to do so. Pamela Owunta, a nonprofit consultant, adds that these donors also want to volunteer and be more involved with the organization than prior generations have been.
In comparison, Owunta points out, older generations respond to direct mail campaigns, phone calls, and in-person meetings in which they learn about the organization’s sustainability and client stories. Additionally, they love handwritten notes and birthday cards from development staff.
It’s clear that millennials have dramatically changed the way nonprofits fund-raise. How many times have you seen a GoFundMe link on your Facebook newsfeed? How many times did you click on it? GoFundMe is a website that allows for crowdfunding, whether you are an individual, group, or organization. When I was volunteering in Israel, we set up a page to gather funds for an event in our community. We reached our goal within days! Most recently, I saw a friend post a page to raise $50,000 for the cancer treatment of another friend’s father — treatment that has been denied by the insurance company. They have raised nearly 40 percent of their goal as I write this.
Online donations have increased in the last few years, and when a person posts about a social cause, friends take the time to learn more about it and ask their friend for more information. Campaigns like Giving Tuesday, which takes place every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, have dramatically increased the amount that nonprofits can raise, and it’s completely virtual. As a result, online fund-raising has increased an estimated 470 percent since Giving Tuesday’s inception, and #GivingTuesday had almost 1.3 million social-media mentions in 2016.
Millennials are also more likely to give to a cause they believe in rather than to an official organization.
They want to see the stories of success in a new way. Natalie Ebel, the marketing director for Pencils of Promise, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We talk to people as if we are a brand not asking for money but building a community to change the world.”
Social entrepreneurship, a subject that yields over 5.3 million results on Google, is big today. Companies like TOMS shoes have tapped into this trend effectively. For each purchase of a pair of shoes, the company gives something to a person in need. This could be a pair of shoes, water, birth kits, or even health care. People have donated over 60 million shoes; 400,000 people had eyesight restored using glasses or surgery; 335,000 gallons of safe water have been given out; and 25,000 birth kits have been distributed. The sheer volumes of giving puts a stop to the criticism regarding the sustainability of these programs.
Despite student debt and stagnant wages, it’s obvious that millennials use their purchasing power wisely. I served in AmeriCorps and volunteered both locally and abroad, and I currently strive to donate as much as I can to causes that I support. I am just one among millions of millennials who are giving to charity and changing the face of philanthropy.