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  • Writer's pictureSeva Food Bank

Philanthropy, Millennial Style!

Millennials get a bad rap.

Most common stereotypes of the generation as a whole paint them as being self-absorbed, lazy, selfish, and entitled.

These are unfair generalizations, and are untrue. The millennial generation, the largest living generation today, is much more charitable and giving than their critics believe. In fact according to the Millennial Impact Project, a comprehensive study of the generation (born 1980-2000) that aims to understand how it connects and supports social causes, found that in 2014 upwards of 85% of them gave charitably and 70% of them volunteered their time.

It is estimated that by the year 2030, millennials will make up 50% of the entire workforce. Their impact on pretty much every aspect of life is already beginning to be felt, and it will continue to be huge!

We can already see their impact on philanthropy. It is a different kind of philanthropy then we have seen in the generations that have preceded them. The organizations and institutions supported by both the boomers and the Gen X’ers are not the go to ones for the millennials who care more about issues instead.

They demand transparency and accountability from the organizations they do support. Rightfully so, considering the fact that theirs is a generation that has not enjoyed the economic boom of the past and have lower disposable incomes, so they want to know where their money is going.

Money might be tight, but the study shows that for the millennials, philanthropy is not just about donating money, it is about contributing to a worthwhile cause. This contribution can be monetary, usually in the form of monthly donations, and it can and is a contribution of their time. Contributing time through volunteering and sharing knowledge are as important to them as contributing money. Many millennial donors will not only give money and volunteer, but also use the force of their own social networks and social media savvy to a cause they believe in.

Social giving is seen as part of a lifestyle choice. The study found that 77% of millennials are more likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills to benefit the cause. Derrick Feldmann, the CEO of Achieve and a researcher for the Millennial Impact study says that millennials are motivated by “a desire to affect THEIR cause through YOUR organization with their friends”.

Millennials are not just being philanthropic because their friends are, and the numbers do indicate that their friends probably are, they are contributing because they believe in a cause, and because doing good is a social activity for them. Linda McKnight, CEO of Crown Philanthropic Solutions, says that they “understand that philanthropy is celebrating what it means to be human, which benefits both the receiver and the giver”. They want social change and are willing to work hard to achieve it. They understand that they can no longer rely on governments alone. They know that they need to roll up their sleeves and get to work, and they are!

Here at Seva Food Bank we have seen and felt the millennial philanthropic impact first hand. They are our volunteers. A huge, diverse group from the communities of Malton and Wolfedale in Mississauga are a crucial part of the team. From attending weekly shifts, engaging the community during food drives and radiothons, to sitting on various internal committees, they are on the frontlines making a difference every day. Many contribute their intellectual and professional skills from finance, law, fundraising and social media marketing, offering their services pro bono. They are instrumental in guiding policy and development. Many volunteers are also donors who are leveraging their vast social networks.

Millennial philanthropy is real and it is growing with a style that is uniquely theirs.

Update: John Hawthorne recently wrote an article on how millennials are changing the landscape of charitable giving. You can read at

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