How Technology is Changing the Way We Give

Chinese food. Medical advice. Financial planning. Yep, there’s an app for that. 

Today, we’re living in an age where literally anything and everything is at our fingertips. It’s what sets us apart from our parents’ generation and probably what lends credence to clickbait articles about how “Millennials Are Ruining Department Stores” or “Killing the Cruise Industry.” We’ve been described as selfish, apathetic, and too busy buying avocado toast to afford a house. (So we’re killing the housing market, too.) 

But as it turns out, we’re using all that newfangled tech and avocado cash for more than just Instagram #breakfast posts. According to Forbes, millennials are actually more likely to give charitably than other generations. And technology is changing the way we do it. 

According to the Case Foundation’s 2105 Millennial Impact Report, in 2014, 84% of millennial employees gave to charity and 70% of them donated more than an hour to a charitable cause. While Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may be giving more dollar for dollar, reports like these show that our generation is giving the most in terms of percentage. 

This means that if these trends continue, and we continue to give similarly as we grow our income and pay off our debt, we may actually grow to be the most generous generation in history.

While a majority of us might be balancing our budget after our last round of Christmas shopping, we’re still making a point to give, especially during the holiday season (though we’re not donating the same way our parents might have in the past). To make philanthropy more appealing to millennials, nonprofits have started to integrate micro-donations and apps into their marketing strategies as a way of reaching out to potentially untapped donors. Rather than make donations at group fundraisers, attending galas, or sending a check through the mail (full disclosure — my mother still does this) we can donate a few dollars here and there throughout the month with the tap of our finger, quickly and easily.

To our parents, this way of giving might seem almost callous, but it’s this accessibility to quick and easy information that makes the tech generation quite so charitable. With a scroll through our social media feeds we are privy to political injustices, societal problems, and ongoing environmental and health issues that allow us to align ourselves with causes we feel passionate about. 

And passion is what matters. Studies have shown that millennials in particular have an affinity for aligning themselves with businesses that reflect their personal value system or beliefs.

If we feel strongly about an issue, we’re willing to give — be it time, money, or effort. Even if it’s as simple as making an ice bucket challenge video to raise awareness about ALS.

Companies like The Mobile Giving Foundation, who partner with nonprofits like ASPCA, Stand Up to Cancer, Oxfam, The Humane Society, and the United Negro College Fund, allow donors to give by simply sending a quick text of their preferred charity and dollar amount. Nonprofits like the American Lung Association have apps that easily help you donate by automatically rounding all online purchases made on your phone to the nearest dollar, donating the change. The American Cancer Society app not only allows you to make donations, but helps you set up local fundraising groups at your school, work — even your yoga studio. These efforts make it easy to donate in a way that feels accessible.

Social media has its own way of reaching potential donors — everything from Facebook ads to crowdfunding for local charities. Of course, creating a full, technologically-savvy brand with a strong social media presence that reaches millions can be difficult, especially since many major nonprofits were established over a century ago. (The American Red Cross was established in 1881.) Companies like Lightful make social media marketing easier and smoother for nonprofits and charities with management tools to help them raise awareness and potential donations for their cause. 

Admittedly, all that swiping, double tapping, and sharing has given us a shorter attention span, and studies show we want things fast and we want them now. But when it comes to charitable giving, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. We can toss out a quick, “Hey Alexa, donate $10 to American Cancer Society,” while we’re sitting on the couch and if our favorite YouTuber is supporting St. Jude with their latest makeup tutorial, we can give with the tap of a button in their video description.

It’s just a different way for us to do the same thing our parents and grandparents have been doing for years. We’re a generation that grew up believing we could change the world, and now we can — but at the touch of a button instead of trying to dig through our junk drawers for stamps, envelopes, and a checkbook.

Marissa Stempien is a freelance editor and writer that donates to ASPCA and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital online like a lazy millennial. With a degree in English Literature and a minor in Asian Studies, she has written on travel, fashion, beauty, technology, culture, and food, and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. Find her on social media at @paperandlights.

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