Millennials have new lens on generosity

Are millennials different from other generations when it comes to generosity?

Millennials and generosity: They’re not so different from other generations

The number of millennials in the U.S. now outnumbers baby boomers.1 And, like generations before them, these 18- to 34-year-olds have their own ideas about the world, some quite different from their parents'.

Perhaps this different lens comes from growing up during the time when technology boomed and entered our everyday lives. Using computers and cell phones became the norm, and access to information was immediate and unlimited.

Perhaps the lens was shaped by the shaky economy and a lack of jobs, which has often made entering adulthood unexpectedly difficult. Many have experienced the "boomerang" effect; they've had to move back in with their parents after completing college. The high cost and weight of their student loans have driven up their monthly expenses, keeping them from being able to afford striking out on their own.

It would be easy to assume that because of these financial barriers, millennials would be less giving. In fact, studies and statistics show how generous this generation is.2 And they're navigating generosity in new – and old – ways.

"Millennials often care more about a cause than an organization."

Here are a few things that motivate millennials to give:

Deep connection with the cause. Most millennials are digital natives and, since they were young, have been immersed in stories from around the globe. This group wants to know the details, to understand cause and effect. They are naturals at sleuthing out information and want to ensure their hard-earned dollars are going to something they understand and are passionate about. Millennials often care more about a cause than an organization.3 They want to connect with other people and will activate social networks to foster a cause.2

Transparency and immediacy. Millennials choose carefully where their resources will go. That may translate into volunteering at a nonprofit to better understand how the organization operates before giving a gift of more time or money. Often millennials will contribute to emergency appeals or to health care and environmental causes, then follow the progress of the people they're giving to, seeing the impact of their giving right away.

Hope for the future. Millennials are apt to call their generation self-absorbed. But at least some millennials also recognize their group's idealism.4 They've seen throughout their lives how involvement leads to positive change and how social networks can fuel that change. They feel they are part of a global web and are determined to get involved.2

Maybe some of these motivations and methods seem familiar. They are. Millennials, boomers, GenXers, the elder Silent Generation – we're all being generous with what we can when we can.

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1 "Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse," Census Bureau Reports, June 25, 2015.

2 "The Generous Generation: Millennials and Nonprofits," by Heather Hawkins, StratusLive blog, October 27, 2015.

3 "Connections to a Cause: The Millennial Way of Charity," by Nicholas Fandos, The New York Times, Nov. 3, 2016.

4 "Most Millennials Resist the 'Millennial' Label," Pew Research Center, Sept. 3, 2015.