Giving in a Millennial World: Six Tips on Generosity for Generation Next
Nowadays, it seems that no matter what publication you read, there’s always something being written about Millennials. As a member of the Millennial generation, I totally get it – we’re game changers. We grew up with unprecedented access to information, with ever-evolving technology that armed us with the ability to connect with people and places more seamlessly than any generation before us.
We’re a fast-moving demographic, ready to conquer what’s next, even if we don’t know what that is. There are undoubtedly many things in our zeitgeist that Millennials will be pointed to for changing, but there’s one age-old ideal that we’re already shifting that I see in my every day work: philanthropy. Millennials will almost certainly be different kinds of philanthropists than their grandparents and parents, and it’s all because of how the meaning of generosity has changed.
Think about it. The concept of generosity is one that we grew up with, but not the kind of generosity that you learn about in church or synagogue or around your family dinner table. As kids, we grew up with the beginnings of the internet, skated (or suffered) through adolescence dissecting AIM conversations with middle school crushes and analyzing cryptic away messages, drove our first cars while texting with thumbs that moved at lightning speeds, went to college with an already robust Facebook profile, and by post-grad we had well-formed opinions on Twitter feeds a mile long and highly filtered photographs on Instagram that showcased a version of the life we were leading.
We tweet about our feelings, Instagram our food, post articles on Facebook about our political leanings – we share everything. We’re generous with our information and, in turn, with our lives. But when it comes to being generous in the more traditional philanthropic sense, a lot of people don’t know where to begin. So, to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of some tips to help you take your first steps into the world of giving, Millennial style, just in time for the holidays.
1. Identify your personal philanthropic priorities.
There’s so many really worthy organizations out there to support. Sometimes having finite resources to give but infinite places to give to can be daunting. Take a few minutes to really think about what’s important to you: are you passionate about the environment? Do you want to support research to eradicate a disease that effects you or someone you love? Have you been directly impacted by a cultural or academic institution? Think about what causes excite you or interest you – or even trouble you – and figure out one or two that are most important to you.
2. Do some research to find non-profit organizations addressing the causes you wish to support.
By utilizing research to identify non-profits that are doing good work, you can be more focused when you approach organizations to get involved. Finding out more about organizations and their work has never been easier; besides Google searches, combing their website, or even checking out their social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, you can explore free resources like Guidestar and Charity Navigator to learn more about an organization’s fiscal health, their mission, and their programming.
3. Ask organizations what they need from you.
There are two reasons to do this. First, by approaching organizations to hear more about their areas of greatest need, you can begin a dialogue with them to better understand the tangible work they are doing in the community. Passion is infectious – even though what they will tell you is probably information you can find out online, engaging in a conversation with the people doing the work about why they need your help will make you feel a lot better about making a donation, or volunteering your time. Second, by being an informed giver, you have the power and the right to ask them questions, and follow-up with them later on and check in on their progress. How will this gift be used? What are some deliverables you hope to measure through this program? Transparency is something that young donors have come to be known for, and that’s a good thing! Non-profit organizations like being held accountable by their donors and, more often than not, appreciate donors who want more information, rather than less.
4. Look for a gift acknowledgement in the mail.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t receive a gift acknowledgement in letter form, make sure to ask for one. A letter of acknowledgement for your contribution is not only great for your personal records, but also for when you’re getting ready to file for taxes. You can submit a letter of acknowledgement as proof of your contribution, and claim your tax deduction. Added bonus!
5. A gift doesn’t have to stop at the moment your credit card gets charged or your check gets cashed.
You’d be surprised how great it feels to keep a relationship with a non-profit you’ve supported going throughout the year. Once you’ve donated, if you’re still excited or inspired by the organization’s work, find out other ways you can continue your involvement. They might have a need for volunteers at their next big event, or want people to sit on a committee to advise them. hey might have a young professionals group you can join, need volunteers at their next big event, or want people to sit on a committee to advise them.
6. No amount is too small.
I feel really strongly about this, and I think it’s extremely important for young donors to understand. No one expects Millennials to be ready to cut big checks – you’re still building your life and your career, and just because of the stage of life you’re in, your resources are likely to be more limited. Non-profit organizations know this, and respect it. More than anything, the fact that you are taking an interest in them early on, getting involved in whatever way you can, and making a contribution that you feel good about, is really wonderful. Believe that whatever you can do is awesome, and enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JULIE JUDSONJulie Judson, is the Manager of Institutional Advancement at Citi Center, where she recently celebrated her two-year anniversary. Julie works closely with Citi Center’s Board of Directors and Overseers, cultivates and stewards companies who are members of the Corporate Leadership Program, plans and implements all fundraising special events, and manages the Metropolitans, Citi Center’s young professionals group of over 150 members. She is also pursuing her Master’s in Arts Administration at Boston University part-time. When she’s not at work or in school, Julie can be found dancing with a local professional company, Jazz Inc. Dance. Julie loves going to museums and shows, hosting dinner parties, cooking, reading, and exploring Boston. Read more about and from the author: Julie’s WiLab Profile