#MillennialMonday : Donating Differently

When you hear the word ‘Millennial’ usually the words narcissist, distracted, superficial, whiny, incapable and a slew of other synonyms follow. What most people don’t realize is that Millennials happen to be one of the more conscious, attentive and giving generations to date.

They are increasingly aware of issues facing society and are more willing to seek out involvement to create a solution.  Generally speaking, Millennials tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and creativity, which has changed standards in workplace and education settings. They seek more than just a good paycheck at work and desire more than lectures in school. So it makes sense that how they approach the world of philanthropy will be different and they desire something more and different than what has been typical of the past.

I spent one year doing research on Millennials donor behavior – specifically what motivates them to donate their time and money to not-for-profit organizations. What I found was not surprising – Millennials are donating differently than other generations.

First, their use of technology and social media has them finding causes and organizations that might typically fall off the radar through typical fundraising channels.  This has been seen with many fundraising campaigns taking off through social media, in particular, #GivingTuesday, the global day to promote philanthropy.  But it is seen also on a general platform through direct-mail solicitations moving more online through email and annual reports, testimonials, stories and program updates being shared through websites and social media.

Perhaps the most recent recognition is through the element of crowd-funding.  Sites like GoFundMe have used a more grassroots approach to gain support for causes and organizations.  Even individuals have taken to GoFundMe for independent causes whether it’s the family down the street who lost their house in a fire or a college student looking to fund an international service trip. Crowd-funding ventures are not just giving typical not-for-profit organizations some attention, but individuals and grassroots causes that might otherwise be overlooked.

But it isn’t just the monetary element of philanthropy that Millennials are looking to do differently.  The aspect of volunteerism is huge among Millennials, especially younger Millennials who have more flexibility in their schedules, or find opportunities through college programs.  Even when they take on strict schedules that come in the working world, Millennials value volunteer opportunities that their employers provide, and even prefer to work at an organization that is affiliated in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.  Many employers now offer volunteer opportunities to appeal to potential Millennial employees.  Even as time will become more rigid as Millennials age some people that won’t affect volunteerism as Millennials become parents and will be more involved in school and church volunteer initiatives.

Millennials are unique because they recognize that philanthropy can be a beneficial opportunity more than just the typical “good feeling” from donating.  Millennials find that volunteering their time and talent can be a good resume booster and that donating money allows them to have some say in the improvement of society if that is through their church, alma mater, or another organization.

There’s no doubt that because of this attitude, Millennials will be making an impact with #GivingTuesday. Between their giving power (Millennials now are the largest generational cohort) and their inclination to be involved in philanthropy, Millennials will be making #GivingTuesday a staple – one that hasn’t had a successful predecessor, like Cyber Monday had in Black Friday.

This #GivingTuesday, I’m hoping to not only give back but also to spread the message and importance of giving back. Here are a few ways you can make a difference this #GivingTuesday:

1.) Donate Money

I set aside a set amount of money that I wanted to donate on #GivingTuesday.  I have been looking at organizations that I felt have left an impact on me and ones that I feel have done good for the community I live in and that I have a passion for.  I’m taking that set amount of money and spreading it across those organizations.  It may be small comparatively, but if we all just give a little it can make a huge impact for not-for-profits across the board.

You can afford to donate something. Even if it’s $10 – a few donations can add up to a greater magnitude. The truth of the matter is we can’t do much without money, and not-for-profits are always strapped for resources.  A small amount, especially in the not-for-profit world can make a huge impact!

2.) Donate Time

Unfortunately I won’t be able to donate my time this #GivingTuesday because I’ll be working.  Now that I am working I have to do a better job of finding volunteer opportunities, since I’m out of college and ones aren’t thrown at my feet every other day.  It’s easy to forget about volunteering when you suddenly aren’t given opportunities through groups at your college.  But I also actively sought out to volunteer to help gain experience for my professional career. I picked a place I was passionate about and had a need that I could assist with.  I volunteered for a local hospital and research facility in Buffalo that I had a personal connection with.  Their work in the community is monumental and I’m now more active in finding new ways to give them my time, while looking for new organizations I can also help.

A priest were I used to go to Church once said that there are 168 hours in a week and we can give one of those hours back to God – meaning we can afford the one hour to attend Mass on Sundays. I think despite how busy our schedules are that we can afford a couple hours every month to go out and help an organization.  It can be serving lunch at a food pantry, to helping out at a church or school function to maybe doing pro bono work for an organization that needs a specific skill you have to offer.  Volunteering doesn’t need to be typical or boring, you can make it an asset to you, what you are good at and what you are passionate about. That in the end makes you feel more useful and the organization more appreciative of what you have to offer.

3.) Donate Items

I’ve been on a mission to clean out my closet and donate items that I haven’t worn or I’ve grown out of.  I have coats that will be going to the Buffalo City Mission as winter is in our midst and coats are an urgent need for the homeless and poor that the mission hopes to serve.  There’s also food items that local food pantries can always get to help feed families in need.

Food and clothing are the most common items to donate, but there are so many urgent needs like baby supplies that certain organizations can never get enough of.  Baby items, specifically, are expensive and hard to come by so it’s a different item, yet an urgent need that certain organizations can use. Women and children centers can benefit greatly from having these items donated that they may otherwise have to purchase on their own.

4.) Go beyond #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is one day and helps promote giving on a global level. But it shouldn’t be just a one-day-of-the-year occasion.  Granted you can’t possibly donate money and have time to go out and volunteer every day but more can be done just than one day out of the year.

Find a way to volunteer on a regular basis.  Sacrifice a trip to the coffee shop or a convenient fast food meal and put that money to an organization you’ve heard doing good in your community. Maybe you can even promote a giving program at work. There’s ways you can donate that are more than just the norm, so find your way of donating differently and you will be the change that continues to make our world a better place.

How are you celebrating #GivingTuesday? What organizations are you supporting on this special day? Sound off in the comments section below and let me know how you are donating differently and making a difference in our world!



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