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Millennials Give to CharityGeneration Y, whose members are commonly referred to as “millennials,” is often considered to be the most selfish generation. However, the perceived narcissism of millennials is a simplified and inaccurate depiction of this age group. Recent data has proven something that older generations can’t seem to believe: millennials care about people other than themselves. In fact, many millennials give to charity.

According to the Millennial Impact Report, 75 percent of millennials donated to charity in 2011. That number increased to an impressive 84 percent in 2015. Seventy percent of millennials even help raise funds for their favorite causes.

If the charitable millennial still seems like an imaginary creature, consider Micaela Hill, a 22-year-old volunteer with AmeriCorps NCCC. At present, Hill is involved in disaster relief efforts in Texas. Two years ago, she did medical volunteer work in Guatemala. Needless to say, she resents the self-absorbed image bestowed on her and her fellow millennials. “I am currently surrounded by 300 charity-minded millennials,” Hill told The Borgen Project. “My friends have always been willing to help others.”

Conceding that millennials are engaged in charity work, is there anything to support the myth of the “narcissism epidemic” that supposedly plagues them? A study done by the University of Illinois’ psychology department determined that college-age individuals score the highest on Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) assessments. However, the research also explains that this phenomenon has little to do with generations and more to do with maturation. Young people today actually earn lower NPI scores than young people 20 years ago.

Indeed, millennials give to charity and they are doing so in modern and tech-savvy ways. An estimated 62 percent of millennials make charitable donations online. The Digital Age has led to the birth of fundraising websites like Indigogo and Kickstarter, which make donating fast and simple for proficient web-users. Eight percent of millennials give to charity through social media platforms, and 50 percent use their social media accounts to share information about charities and causes they believe in.

In Hill’s opinion, the Internet and social media contribute crucially to millennials’ awareness of global affairs. “Now everyone knows about [global issues] and can become aware of what they can do to help,” she says.

Most millennials report that when they give to charity, they want the opportunity to see the good their donation has done. This desire to make a visible change in the world is considered narcissistic according to the NPI test, but many millennials would argue it is admirably ambitious. Hill is one such individual.

“We all haven’t had the chance to enact the changes we want to see in the world yet, but we are now coming of age. Our time is coming.”

– Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

z1 Borgen Project
A young man decided to devote his life to saving the lives of people in poverty-stricken countries. Thus, he completed his doctorate of philosophy at University of Oxford and became a trader at a Wall Street firm. Although the logic in this plan is not immediately clear, in the scheme of effective altruism, it makes perfect sense.

Effective altruism is “a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world”. It is a trend, primarily among young people, to live their best life while also giving the most they can to help other people. It is not sacrificing, but flourishing.

The Oxford grad and trader, Matt Wage, made it his goal to give a sufficient amount of his annual salary to save the lives of the millions of children around the world who die annually from preventable diseases. He realized that, as a trader, he would be able to give a larger amount of money away, and within a year of work, he was donating a six-figure sum to highly effective charities. He is able to lead a stable, comfortable life in a promising career while helping hundreds of people across the globe.

Philosophy plays a major role in the workings of effective altruism because it challenges the relationship between impulse and reason: are we guided entirely by impulse and only later apply reason as a hollow justification, or do we decipher our reasoning before even considering out actions? How does logic play into charitable acts? Is it a guiding principle some possess and other do not, or do generous people simply give as a matter of impulse? Like many things in philosophy, there are no simple answers, but it is enough to challenge popular notions of behavior through benefiting oneself while also helping others.

Effective altruists also challenge conventions in that they are highly selective in where they let their money go. Rather than spreading funds across many different charities, they donate to just one or two organizations they know are highly effective and make the most of their funds. This requires thorough research into the progress and activity of different organizations and a strong passion for one or two causes.

Effective altruists also employ logic in funneling their donations. They believe that rather than donating to causes that attract people through emotional sway, people should donate funds to causes that most need them and will most effectively use them. This promotes charitable organizations to attract donors through demonstrated transparency and efficiency rather than eliciting emotional responses.

As Millenials enter the workforce, many are considering careers that allow them to give back while living modest lives. They are directing the course of their lives in the interest of others, while giving back to their own communities through hard work and human capital. In this way, they are leading industrious lives and helping others do the same. They employ both logic and emotion and shed optimistic light on the future of charity and goodwill.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: TED, Boston Review
Photo: 101 Fundraising