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How Do Millennials Feel About Charity?

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On Giving Tuesday, we thought it would be appropriate to explore the relationship between charities and that most important demographic: Millennials (yes, we dislike the word too, but it seems we’re stuck with it).

Truth be told, we were initially inspired to write this post because of an irritating quote that “The Millennial Whisperer”, aka psych professor Dr. Jean Twinge, offered Digiday last week:

“One common [claim] is that this generation really wants to help people and they want jobs where that’s the No. 1 goal and that they’re very interested in getting along in government. And that’s not true. They’re even less interested in that than previous generations.”

So Gen Y talks a good game on generosity but doesn’t follow up, huh? Other researchers beg to differ.

It would appear that the young folks are hip to the giving game despite all the reports of “helicopter parenting“, 30-year-olds who can’t quite transition into adulthood, and condescending viral videos about how people in their 20′s are so bad at doing, you know, work.

In 2011, for example:

  • 75% said they gave to charity
  • 63% said they volunteered
  • 41% said they’d do more the following year

An alternate set of numbers supports the idea that Gen Y is more generous than its 35-plus colleagues (in spirit, at least):

The problem, according to other studies, isn’t that Millennials are selfish or “entitled”—it’s that they don’t have all that much in the way of disposable income:

The vast majority of the gifts Millennials gave were $100 or less per organization, and just 15 percent contributed $500 or more

So they don’t give in big lump sums, but they do find other ways to contribute. A more recent survey noted these generational differences:

  • 60% say that “the ability to see the direct impact of their donation” greatly influences their decision to give; only 37% of boomers said the same
  • They want to know where their retail spending goes, too: approximately 50% say their purchasing decisions are influenced by whether or not some of the proceeds will go to charity
  • They like the idea of crowdsourced funding: 47% say they’d donate that way compared to 13% of boomers

More on the first point: the “biggest pet peeve” reported by study participants is not knowing how donations will be used.

Some other important but unsurprising findings: the two top places Millennials learn about charitable organizations are their home pages and their social media feeds. The natural conclusion is that brands need to take the TOMS approach and show young people exactly how their purchases or donations will help, either through social or content hosted on corporate websites.

In the aggregate, Generation Y is very interested in doing more to make the world a better place, but their resources are somewhat limited.

How can we best encourage them to follow through on their good intentions? That, dear readers, is the question.

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