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Millennials And Charitable Giving: A New Approach To Philanthropy

K-State Research and Extension
Flickr Creative Commons

Millennials now outnumber baby boomers in the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And though the millennial generation has been stereotypically seen as self-absorbed and buried in student loan debt, they are involved in charitable giving. But they’re doing it differently than their parents have done.

“People are often worried that millennials don’t actually have enough money yet to donate because they’re so young,” said Connecticut native Ari Kagan -- a millennial himself.  But he said that’s a misconception. “Millennials are between 25 and 40 right now, right in the middle of financial maturity -- not our typical image where we think of it as a whining 13-year-old who wants to buy avocado toast.”

In fact, while on average about 70% of Americans donate, millennials give at rate of about 85%.

Still, Kagan said they want a few things in return, like an easy way to give online.

“You’ve got 90% of giving still done offline," he said. “Still done with cash and check and mail-ins and this kind of very out-of-date fashion that harkens back to how we used to interact with the whole world.”

Kagan has co-founded an app called Momentum that ties donations to things people do in their daily lives, “like every time you go out to eat, adding 10% to the bill and donating that to a hunger charity. Or that could even be things happening in the world, like every time Donald Trump tweets, give 10 cents to the ACLU.”

And he says millennials want more control over where their money is going. Websites catering to millennials worried about wasteful spending now vet organizations and charities.

But Gian-Carl Casa, president of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, said donors should understand how nonprofits operate.

“There are some misconceptions about overhead and nonprofits,” he explained. “Nobody would go, for instance, to a pizza shop and say, ‘Well, we’ll pay for the cheese and we’ll pay for the tomatoes, but we’re not going to pay for the people who put the pizza together and we’re not going to pay for your rent.’ I mean, that’s what overhead is.”

Still, Casa says organizations are making adjustments to try to attract younger donors to financially support the work they do.