If you believe everything you read, the millennial generation can be described in the following ways: lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and addicted to just about everything including social media and randomly, bacon. What’s more is that millennials have been accused of NOT caring enough about the things that really matter — like achieving world peace and finding the cure for cancer.
But how true is that belief? According to The National Conference on Citizenship, “millennials are showing strong interest in civic participation and reversing some of the declines observed among youth since the 1970s.” In fact, this group of people appears to be more civically engaged than the generation before it (Generation X) and more likely to volunteer. In a telephone survey conducted by the organization, 56% of millennials reported volunteering in the past year.
If you’re in that other 44 percent of young people who did not donate time to a specific cause, keep reading. Obviously, volunteerism is a rewarding experience on its own. But there are also other benefits to getting involved with a philanthropic cause including developing your skillset, which will make you more attractive to a hiring manager. You’ll also meet new, interesting, like-minded people. And I hate to sound cliché, but you just might “find yourself” (or at least some version of you that you haven’t met before). Here are some ways to decide where you want to volunteer:
1. Determine what makes you mad. Then do something about it.
Did you happen to read this article about an American woman who was gang-raped in India? If you’re a normal human being with an ounce of empathy, this should make you angry, make you sad or make you say “how could something like this happen?” Use that as motivation to make a change. It’s great to be aware of what’s going on, but it’s even more powerful to provide a solution to some of these problems. Charity Navigator should deliver some legit nonprofits that you can align with or you can start your own movement using a tool like Causes.com.
2. Dedicate time/money to something that you've been affected by personally.
Any volunteer effort should be matched with commitment and enthusiasm. If you have an intimate connection to a cause, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
For example, if a family member has been diagnosed with breast cancer, getting involved with an advocacy effort on behalf of survivors would be a worthwhile experience.
3. Become aware of prevalent issues in your community.
Attend local community board meetings, in-person, and online town halls, and get to know the people who are in charge in your community. Find out what they consider the biggest concerns. While it’s an excellent idea to help people abroad, there’s usually someone in need right in your own neighborhood. Group efforts like clothing drives or cleaning up local streets are also a great way to build community camaraderie.
4. Watch what your friends are doing. You may want to help, too.
Tap into your social network. And I’m not referring to Facebook or Twitter. Ask your friends if they’re already donating time or money to a philanthropic organization. You likely have similar interests and life goals so their causes might be a natural fit.
5. Attend the Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit.
The Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit is the only two-day intensive dedicated to strengthening giving behaviors for African-American millennials. On day two of the Summit, June 15, it will host a non-profit fair. The fair is a chance for you to meet featured non-profits seeking to engage with diverse individuals who believe in giving back to their communities. The fair is the perfect opportunity to learn how you can become a donor, volunteer, or even a board member.