Millennials and Philanthropy: How Young Adults Spend Time and Money

Young adults and philanthropy

Despite their reputation, millennials are giving more of their time and money in a big way. Seventy percent of millennials volunteered in 2014, and a whopping 85 percent gave money to a philanthropy or cause. Compared to the overall 45 percent of the population who volunteered in 2014, millennials and young adults are much more generous with their time than their Boomer parents. 

Why millennials give

Most people have the instinct to give something - whether it's money, time or talent - to organizations that do charitable work.

Often people are drawn to a particular cause due to some personal experience - fighting an illness they or a family member has dealt with, working with homeless children if they struggled as children, and so on. Millennials take this desire to give back one step further, and prefer to be able to see and interact with the organization in real time, so they can be clear about where their money is going and how it is helping the beneficiaries.

The website Watsi, for example, has proven to be very successful in soliciting funds and support from millennials because they can see the face of the person they are helping and follow his or her progress. Its website has profiles of each person in need, with photos, medical histories, timelines and expected cost of care. Donors are sent email updates about the recipients progress and condition. Another plus for millennials is the guarantee that their money is going directly to care for patients and not for administrative costs.

Millennials are more likely to give if they see their peers giving. Social media sharing is key for any fundraising effort to succeed in this demographic. They trust their friends and want to support what they support. 

How millennials give money

It's no surprise that social media plays a big part in the way millennials give money to philanthropies.

From crowdfunding for people in need through sites like to emails and Instagram ads, this generation reacts to immediate results and positive interaction with organizations and individuals in need of help. Twitter and Facebook are proven sources of fundraising success, as millennials prefer peer-to-peer appeals instead of mass mailings or ads.

Another way millennials are giving money is by buying things. Whether a t-shirt or a baseball cap, millennials like to show that they are supporting a cause by wearing or displaying something with the name of the organization. Fun runs, 10ks and other participatory events are also a popular way for millennials to give money. 

The hugely successful #GivingTuesday campaign is something millennials have responded to in a big way. This event is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, after Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping have been done. #GivingTuesday is the international day of giving, and millennials have responded well to this campaign, both with donations and with social media shares across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. 

Each year, online fundraising has seen dramatic spikes (up an estimated 470% since inception) on #GivingTuesday and the hashtag had almost 1.3 million social media mentions. Millennials gravitate towards movements like #GivingTuesday because they are simple, social and produce data-reported outcomes. - The Philanthropist

How millennials give time and talent

By the time most people have grown to adulthood, they have given to one charity or another, whether through their house of worship, school, youth organization or community service project. As children, most will give time, whether it's collecting canned goods or planting flowers. Young adults are inspired to participate in philanthropic activities when they see friends and co-workers giving hours of their evenings and weekends to others.

Unlike when they were children and were led to a philanthropy by parents or teachers, millennials will find a cause and give of themselves because it matters and because it makes them feel good, too. Money is not always available, but time is a commodity that anyone has to offer. Person to person connections are especially popular with millennials, as are organizations that help animals.

Mentoring teens, whether helping with homework or coaching a sports team are other ways that millennials choose to give to causes they care about and believe in.