Millennials change the landscape of charitable giving

The following column from Jennifer Pagliara, CapWealth Senior Advisor, appeared in The Tennessean on Nov. 27, 2017.

Photo Getty Images/iStockphoto

As we kick off the 2017 holiday season, giving back is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. For 2016, individuals, estates, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities according to “Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016.” Specifically, individuals and households saw an increase in giving by 3.9 percent over 2015.

While many might not automatically associate charitable giving with millennials, people might be surprised to learn that the millennial generation is actually changing the landscape for nonprofit organizations and causes around the world. In fact, there have been several articles just this year noting the disruption millennials are causing in charitable giving, as nonprofit organizations scurry to implement new technology and programs to meet the expectations and needs of this generation.

The old way of reaching out to and collecting donations just doesn’t connect to today’s digitally savvy contributors — millennial or otherwise. The days of sending a letter requesting a donation with a return envelope are over. Many people don’t even use a checkbook anymore, much less pay much attention to what shows up in the mailbox.
So, where are people finding causes to contribute to? Social media.

Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge that went viral a couple of years ago? It took on a life of its own and got people to donate to a cause most knew nothing about. Why? Because it allowed people to visually broadcast their charitable response — something millennials especially love to do.

Our generation (and those coming behind us) have been raised in the digital age, where broadcasting our lives is as much a part of our daily routine as eating and sleeping. And, not only do we use social media to transmit our own life happenings, but we expect to be able to follow the broadcasts of our friends and influencers. And seeing what others are doing can certainly inspire people to check out certain charities and get involved in the causes their friends and influencers care about.

Another charitable giving demand social media has inspired for millennials? Transparency.

With the rise of social media came an overall expectation of greater transparency — from companies, brands and organizations — as people expected to be able to dig deeper into a company’s mission, vision and culture by following them on social media and, thus, learning how they are making a difference in the world.

Millennials care about where their money is going, whether purchasing a product from a company or donating to a charity. An article in Fast Company in October of this year, titled “As Millennials Demand More Meaning, Older Brands Are Not Aging Well,” noted that for brands to continue to perform well with millennials and other “consumers of the future,” they need to have (and communicate) a clear mission.

Charitable giving falls in line with this same expectation — it’s important for us to know exactly how our donations will be spent and how big that impact is on the world around us.

It’s also not all about the money for millennials. For us, it’s not just about how much money we give, but it is also about donating our time. It is just as valuable — maybe even more valuable — for us to give of our time than to hand out a monetary donation. We get more fulfillment out of personally being involved in the impact rather than just handing over some cash.

If we can wear a pair of shoes or eyeglasses by a brand known to give back to charity for every purchase, that’s an active way for millennials to support a good cause. Similarly, if we can attach a charitable offering to an everyday activity, such as shopping on Amazon, that’s a no-brainer for us.

The millennial generation is now the largest living generation, surpassing the baby boomers this past year, so it’s important for charitable causes around the world to start engaging us now. Lucky for them, we are eager to help out — it’s just a matter of getting creative with how we can give back.

Jennifer Pagliara is a financial adviser with CapWealth Advisors, LLC, and a proud member of the Millennial Generation. Her column speaks to her peers and anyone else that wants to get ahead financially.

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