Giving Young: The Engaged Philanthropy of Millennials

By: Indre McGlinn   |   The Funding Network

What do you think will be the defining challenge of the next 50 years? Climate change? Refugee crises? Economic upheaval? Terrorism? It’s almost impossible to name just one. What’s certain is that as we move into an increasingly uncertain future, so much of the social change agenda depends on the generation we now call ‘Millennials.’

According to Forbes, Millennials - those born between the years 1980 and 2000 - will make up about 50% of the global workforce by 2025. So engaging them in philanthropy is fundamental to the future of community investment and social progress. Contrary to popular stereotyping, Millennials are neither unmotivated nor narcissistic. In fact young people are already being introduced to, and involving themselves in new forms of giving.

The Millennial Impact Report, a widely cited study that surveyed 2,500 millennial workers, found that 84% made a charitable donation in 2014. Millennials are empowered to give in this dramatically changing world. They also have a number of priorities in doing it:

Firstly, young people want to connect with a cause that they are personally passionate about. They are less interested in brands but instead prioritise strong stories and personal experience or ‘memory-making’ through their interaction with a cause. They also favour stories that can be shared with others. Finally, they don’t want to feel that they are ‘donating,’ but rather ‘investing’ in something big. For this reason, they also want transparency.

These findings come from numerous broad research projects including the above Millennial Impact Project and others.

Successful contemporary giving channels allow Millennials to feel autonomous about their giving. It lets them pick and choose the causes that speak to them, offering them the freedom to give however much they want, or can, to a cause that fits their personal experience in that moment.

And of course there’s the ‘social’ element. Whether it’s online or in person, these new models are engaging Millennials as a collaborative species. The ‘people power’ element cannot be underestimated. This feeds back into the huge social influence of young people in digital media and the online universe. It’s what has happened with anything that has ‘gone viral.’

Real stories about real people are crucial. To cut through the information saturation Millennials are so susceptible to. Stories are something they can emotionally connect with. As we know, good giving is about making it personal - connecting people with other people. Millennials respond especially strongly to this.

Javan Van Gronigen, the founder of online giving service Donate.ly, used the example of the KONY 2012 campaign to argue this point, saying, “To solicit donations without doing good storytelling is not going to get you far. [Kony 2012] did well because it was an amazing story and when you watched it, you felt like donating.”

Collective philanthropy is taking off everywhere, and several are very attractive to Millennials. These include microfinance platforms like Kiva and Zidisha; dedicated online crowdfunding platforms like Start Some Good, Chuffed and Good Mob; live collective giving models like The Funding Network and 10x10, and workplace giving initiatives like Good 2 Give and GoodCompany.

These solutions satisfy the criteria that Millennials are looking for when putting their generosity to work. And they are working, because Millennials want to give. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their future.

Apr. 26, 2016

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