Giving & #GoodSpotting as a Millennial this Holiday Season

Holiday card for service member
Holiday cards for military members at the White House.

After working in the nonprofit sector for my entire professional career so far (nearly six years for those of you keeping track), giving back is pretty much a part of my everyday life now. In my first job, I became invested in the issues of my clients at the agency I worked at, and at my second job at the UN Foundation, I was all about preventing malaria and empowering adolescent girls. At my current job at the Case Foundation, I am dedicated to our mission of bringing philanthropy to everyone through technology, and inspiring people to change the world in fearless ways. And of course right now in the holiday season, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities that could be highlighted as #GoodSpotting — my friends have even started getting in on it too, and my mom (winning!).

Like many Millennials, volunteering isn’t the first thing I think of when I want to give back. And like most Millennials, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spare each year either. But I have technology that makes it easy for me to send of a quick $10 or $25 donation through platforms like Razoo or organizations like Donors Choose, Girls Write Now, and Girls on the Run. I use social media to spread the word about issues I care about like fitness and nutrition, education, and technology for good. It’s easy to grab a couple of items from my pantry to drop at the box in my apartment building’s lobby for the Capital Area Food Bank, to bring some unused school supplies to the donation drive at my office, or write holiday cards to our service members that the American Red Cross will send.

So what’s the incentive here? Why do these ways of giving work for me?

They’re easy. They’re fun. The resonate with me. They are part of everyday behaviors (I already have the food, I already like writing letters and cards, I already have leftover office supplies, I already use social media) that make it a no-brainer for Millennials like me who are on the go, are bombarded with so many asks each day, and who only have so much time or money to donate at any given time. And somehow, all of the outcomes of these donations are clearly visualized in my head, even if I never get a nice note back from the charity or the recipients. I can picture a family eating the food I contributed, imagine a soldier reading my Christmas card in Iraq, or see a student using my old notebooks in class. I don’t need a fancy report telling me what happened, and I don’t need an infographic spelling out the impact. The story is in the smiles and the warmed hearts of all of the people that receive my gifts, and I don’t need proof — I just know it works.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, I made a quick donation via text message. When #GivingTuesday came around, I donated online to a friend’s campaign, because he asked. As we near the end of the year, I’ll continue to give when I feel it in my gut — when the story inspires me, or when the act is part of my day anyway, or when it’s right in front of my face and would be silly to ignore it.

For people like me, it’s not about because we have to, or because we’re supposed to, it’s because we want to, and because we like to. It makes us feel good, so we do good. How will you give back this holiday season? If you’re a Millennial, do you think you give of your time and money differently because of your age or technology? Share your story in the comments and one person will receive a Razoo Gift Card to use this holiday season.

6 thoughts on “Giving & #GoodSpotting as a Millennial this Holiday Season

  • Hi,

    I’m with your message here. Haven’t been much of a philanthropist in my life til recently. Your comment of giving because you want to is true for me too.

    Recently, we found ourselves outside a homeless shelter after an event. There wasn’t much of a turn out, so we had a bunch of food on board. When we stopped, there was only about 30 people. Then all of a sudden people came out of nowhere. We fed over a 100 people. The line was a block long. Never ever in my life have I had a rush like that.

    So, I feel you on the “want to.”

    We haven’t made it out to Dupont but, if you catch up with us lunch is on us.

    Going home for Christmas? To Razzoo’s? I’ll be in Raceland / Kenner.

    Lloyd
    Cajunators

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    • Thanks for the story, Lloyd! I love it – that sounds like a great experience. I will keep patiently waiting for you guys to come to Dupont. 🙂 Not going back home again this year (I visit my parents on the West Coast instead), but I’ll be back down there twice for weddings next spring. If you’re down there for Christmas Eve, you must must head to St. James Parish and check out the bonfires on the levee in Gramercy and Lutcher. My aunt has been hosting an open house for years and years where my family cooks a bunch of food and tons of people come through while checking out the bonfires. It’s quite the experience!

      -Jenna

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  • I tend to make a list of the charities I know I want to support throughout the year. So when I have an extra $20 or $50 (the cost of a night out of drinks) I can go to my list, donate online and try to give at multiple times throughout the year. One thing I’ve done in the past three years is donate a portion of my tax return back to charities that I really really want to support. It’s like being Santa in April! Jade

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  • My “go to” act of kindness during the holidays has been going to a Wal-Mart or Target just before Christmas and paying off a lay-away bill that may go unpaid. I always ask for an account with toys for small children that has been recently paid on so that there is a good chance it is going to good use.

    Technology has definitely made giving easier… and I find I am more supportive of friends and family that fundraise (e.g. Movember, Kickstarter, donorschoose.org). But I like to think that my desire to give back is bred more from a greater compassion and acceptance of our fellow humans that is shared by ALL millenials.

    As time pushes ever further along I hope each successive generation is more giving, not just of time and money, but of of acceptance, understanding, and equality.

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