The spat between the two largest generations, retiring Baby Boomers and freshly “#adulting” Millennials, plays out in full HD thanks to social media. Flipping through the comments on any Boomer v. Millennial think piece on Facebook, you might get the impression today’s 30-year-olds haven’t spoken to their parents in years.
At the head of this bickering tends to be the idea one generation thinks the other generation is selfish or lacks concern for others:
Boomers wring their hands about their Millennial children and grandchildren being coddled narcissists preoccupied with selfies. They say Millennials have gotten handouts for so long, they’ll only ever expect to receive and not to give.
Millennials, on the other hand, call Boomers hypocrites, saying young people are expected to do far more with far less than their parents--and with Boomers constantly criticizing and feeling entitled to more.
But these two generations aren’t the only ones subject to the selfishness stereotype. Poor Gen X also gets a bad rep, with both Millennials and Boomers pausing from their battle from time to time to call them apathetic, cynical, and therefore too indifferent to get involved in helping people.
And with Gen-Z up and coming, there’s one thing we don’t wonder about: what we're all going to be saying about them.
It goes without saying stereotyping any group for any one thing is uncool, so we’re not touching that long list of alleged generational crimes with a 10-foot pole (or any length of pole, for that matter).
But at least when it comes to the whole who is and is not selfish thing, there is a truckload of data available to anyone interested in settling the Most Charitable Generation fight. And the answer, as you can expect, is a lot more complicated than just ranking them #1, #2, and #3.
...But, in the interest of keeping things simple, we’ll just sum it up like this:
YOU ARE ALL WRONG. NO GENERATION IS INHERENTLY SELFISH.
WE ALL EXPRESS CHARITABLE INSTINCTS IN DIFFERENT WAYS DUE TO THE EVENTS AND CULTURAL VALUES OF OUR UNIQUE TIMES IN HISTORY, AS WELL AS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC POSITIONS IN THIS UNIQUE TIME IN HISTORY.
EVERYONE PLEASE JUST CALM DOWN.
There. Now we can continue.
While it may appear a particular generation gives or cares more or less, the reality is each generation is motivated by different things and has different resources to contribute to charity. When you look at the numbers, you’ll find an amazing amount of giving in every generation--it’s just tailored to the interests and means of each group.
In fact, let’s just settle this between Boomers and Millennials right now:
We hate to break it to you, Millennials, but Boomers are in no way selfish. Boomers actually make up a whopping 43% of ALL charitable giving in the United States--far more than any other age group.
They’re good at it, too. Before making a donation, 49% of Boomers will investigate a nonprofit to be sure their money is going to a great cause.
Boomers are also the #1 supporters of the first responder organizations that so many of us depend on--so maybe cut your parents some slack.
But not so fast, Boomers. Millennials might be right when they say you guys are a little harsh. While they may only compose 11% of total charitable giving, 84% of employed Millennials are established nonprofit donors. This may mean young people with less work experience and smaller incomes give very frequently, but in smaller amounts they can afford.
And when it comes to volunteering time and valuable skills rather than giving money, Millennials aren’t all that far behind Boomers: 25.7% of Boomers volunteer compared to 21.9% of Millennials.
It’s also worth noting Millennial giving has actually completely changed the way nonprofits engage with donors. Thanks to young donors today, nonprofits can create viral and unexpectedly huge fundraisers (like the ALS bucket challenge) via social media sharing and find massive crowdfunding support on platforms like GoFundMe or YouCaring. Not too shabby for such a SELFISH generation, huh?
As for Gen-X, apathetic they are not. Not only do they represent 20% of all giving, they smoke Boomers and Millennials on the volunteering front: 28.9% of Gen-Xers are volunteers. It seems Gen-X actually gives more of their physical time and participation to charitable causes than anyone else.
And if nothing else stops the arguing, maybe we can all commiserate over one thing: by all estimation, we’re all about to be shown up by the new kids in town: Gen-Z.