Behind the headlines lies a philosophical debate. Many argue that narcissism is on the rise and is the root of the so-called millennial problem. Much of this stems from a 2013 study that found that on average, almost two-thirds of college students studied were more narcissistic than a group from 1982.
The opposite end of the spectrum argues that millennials are actually more likely to volunteer and more tolerant of diversity, directly opposing the former study. They argue that today’s emerging adults are not only less narcissistic, they’re a more generous generation that holds great promise for improving the world.
While many non-profits have classically looked towards the older generations as the strongest donors, a recent study found that 84% of millennial employees gave to charity, and 70% donated more than an hour to a charitable cause. So, while baby boomers and Gen Xers are giving more in terms of dollars, more millennials are giving, and they’re giving in different ways.
Eva Shure and Craig Saslow, co-founders of Red Carpet Kids and members of the Make-A-Wish Metro New York New Leadership Council (NLC), a board made up of millennials working to support Make-A-Wish, echoed this, explaining that what they love about working with Make-A-Wish is that they can personally get involved.
“We don’t want to just write a check. We want to help by doing,” said Craig. “It’s visceral – you see where it goes, you see the wishes happening.”
And for the NLC, while they work hard to raise funds and ensure wishes happen, their involvement does not stop there. Every single member of the group is an active wish granter, personally working with children to make their life-changing wishes come true.
Eva explained that this is one of the reasons they were drawn to Make-A-Wish – to not just raise funds, but to do something to help.
“We are in the business of making people smile, making them laugh,” she said. “We wanted to do this in a more meaningful way. We wanted it to matter more and being involved with Make-A-Wish is the single most meaningful thing that has happened to us.”
So, why are millennials giving at higher rates than their predecessors? There are likely a number of reasons. Among them, the digitization of the world as we know it – it is now easier than ever to share opinions and spread ideas, as well as to raise funds and donate. Today it is easier than ever to click a button and give to a cause, and with the rise in popularity of monthly giving, donors can find the dollar amount that fits their budget and set it on autopilot.
Second, only partially in line with their “snowflake” reputation, millennials grew up believing strongly that they can affect change in the world. They believe they can make a difference and are empowered to do so.
Millennials haven’t donated much yet, but through their actions, they’re slowly making the country more charitable overall. And with many now well into parenthood, they’re passing on their values to the next generation. They are on track to change the world.
Perhaps the most selfish generation is really the most selfless.