Rethinking PHIlanthropy for Millennials by Tom Bulloch

Say what you will about millennials, but they are shaping up to be the most charitable generation in history. Despite lower wages and student debt, millennials still manage to give more than twice as much of their money and time compared to their predecessors. The latest Millenial Impact Report indicates that millennials make use of collective action, that is, by acting in smaller, individual ways, they’re able to create leverage as a larger group. 

Amidst the many challenges that currently face millennials, the data supporting their generous habits seems hopeful. Millennials are known for their tendency to disrupt industries and philanthropy is no exception to that. Beyond the need to make a living and survive, the forlorn generation is driven by a desire to ease the suffering of their fellow man. What we are seeing now is a shift in attitude and practice that will redefine charitable giving in the coming years. They’re making an important shift from the philanthropic patterns of their forebears. For example, as a tech-savvy demographic, millennials give more online. Their contributions are usually given in smaller amounts to charitable groups aimed at relieving suffering rather than to traditional philanthropic organizations. 

We generally think of monetary donations when we hear “philanthropy,” but it has less to do with money than it does with the giving three things: time, talent, and treasure. What the millennial generation lacks in monetary resources, they compensate with time and talent. Furthermore, when combined with their passion for social change, this paves the way for a “new” philanthropy. Furthermore, with the linear passage of time, the current system of a donor pyramid is changing because members of the older generations are passing away. It falls on the shoulders of millennials and Gen Z to take up this helm of philanthropic giving to provide for the public good. 

Each generation ends up finding a system to tackle societal issues, but how they go about it varies. No matter the tools they apply to the problems at hand, the strategy of amassing resources behind institutional giving endures. Labeled as cynical, there is a grain of truth behind the sentiment as the millennial generation is increasingly distrustful of and displeased with many institutions, be they government or private and voluntary. One way of looking at philanthropy, though, is through the lens of compassion. Millennials give not for the esteem but to build community, especially when their community is vastly different from their predecessors’. Call them entitled, call them skeptics, whatever you label them, know that millennials are redefining what it means to be generous. 

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