Kids These Days…
If you type in “Why are Millennials” into a Google search bar, a few of the top suggestions to complete the question are “so dumb?” and “so selfish?” A lot has been said about young people, and some of it ain’t pretty. But do Millennials actually lack intellect? Are they entitled as so many claim? Are they lazy?
First of all, Millennials (aka men and women born between 1980 and 2000 or “Generation Y”) tend to be a bit of a mystery. A quick online search reveals countless articles trying to explain who the Millennials are, what do they do and like, and who will they become. With all these theories and observations, young people can get a bad rap: they text too much, they have low voter turnouts, they still live at home, and they have shorter attention spans than a goldfish. These statements may be true, but must be viewed in context with the many other trends that describe a generation.
It turns out that another hallmark of Millennials is generosity and optimism. Yep. They believe in making the world a better place through donations and community service, even more than their peers in past generations.
Generation Us, Us, Us
In 1984, 19% of Americans under the age of 30 agreed that they have a “very important obligation” to volunteer. Today, a similar poll shows that number is up to 29%.
Of course, things are different now. Schools offer community service clubs, volunteer networks are expanding, and the internet allows us to give our money, time and services more easily than ever before (see blog post on all the ways your day-to-day can earn money for charity!). I can think of a few organizations I could quickly support by just going to their website. The Red Cross, Kiva, and the Foundation to Decrease World Suck come to mind, but there are countless others.
It’s easy to give, but that doesn’t mean we have to. And all the “me me me generation” talk makes it seem like people my age aren’t giving back at all, and yet they are,a lot.
The 2014 Millennial Impact Report found that 87% of millennial employees donated to a nonprofit organization in 2013. It also reported that young people are more interested in supporting people and causes, not institutions, and that they place a high value on seeing the impact of their help. Charities are changing accordingly, starting online campaigns for specific issues that appeal to a generation focused on donating resources as effectively as possible.
We’re all about that grass roots campaign stuff. Donating a few dollars, a few hours, knowledge, expertise, to a cause or person we believe in (Remember that cute kid from Humans of New York?). We’re skeptical of organizations and even more so of political institutions, but we’re optimists nonetheless.
Confessions of a Millennial
As a Millennial I too have felt the impulse to seek out new experiences, to meet and help the people who could use a hand. I spend hours following the story of Humans of New York raising over one million dollars to fund a school trip to Harvard for the kids at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn. I’m inspired by the simplicity of the campaign, by its effectiveness and immediate positive effects. I wonder how to have a similarly great idea with a lasting impact.
People my age are giving back at astounding rates, and I’m proud to be one of them. Millennials are leading the way in volunteering and giving to causes, changing the way charities work, posting selfies and tweets every step of the way.
So here I am, armed with my special Millennial blend of enthusiasm, ready to give back. In the past month I’ve researched nonprofits that range from organizations that help rehabilitate recent convicts to an after-school program looking for mentors to help students apply to college, and I took this MOOC (massively open online course) on how to be a better philanthropist.
What did I learn? There are a lot of ways to give, some obvious ones (Click here! Donate five bucks!) and some more hands ons ones. I was moved by the idea of working with a specific student to help them apply to college. It would require a lot of work, but we’d embark on a journey together with shared successes and failures.
It seems as though all that talk about Millennials wanting to see tangible results from their giving rings true for me too.
In the end, I will be part of something bigger than myself. Even if older generations are wary of our tweets and posts and likes, we’re well on our way to changing the world, and it seems time for popular perception to join the movement.
Written by Alessandra Aquilanti, Contributing Writer