Lazy, disinterested, apathetic, self-absorbed and entitled — what do all of these adjectives have in common? These terms have been used to describe "Generation Y," the class of people born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s (also commonly referred to as "Gen Y"). These generalizations have bothered me for some time, as I’m a member of this community. I literally laughed out loud (LOL) as I read how we all apparently mooch off mom and dad. I worked two jobs in college and paid for it myself, as was the case for many of my peers.
One of those peers, a good friend of mine, gave me a great idea a few weeks ago. She pointed out that people generally do not like to be categorized — people want to be seen as individuals, even when it comes to the organizations they choose to support and how they choose to support them. People do not think about “giving” the same way, but if a message or need touches them or someone they care about, they will give however they can.
So how does Generation Y choose to give, and in what ways? One example of a Generation Y stereotype-busting, charitably conscious individual is Carlo Garcia, an actor and producing director for Chicago’s Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. One day while on Facebook, I noticed that one of Garcia’s status updates mentioned Living Philanthropic. I recently spoke with Garcia about this project, how he came up with the idea and why he has continued to pursue it.
“Back in April of this year, I was walking down the street and a question popped in my head: How hard would it be to give to charity every day? If you take money out of the equation, I didn't think it would be that hard. So, I decided to challenge myself to take on the mission for 365 days. When it comes to giving, I wanted to prove that it doesn't matter how much or little you give. The only thing that matters is that you give often, because it adds up,” he said.
Garcia refers to Living Philanthropic as his year-long mission to give to charity every day for a year, with each day documented on his blog. Garcia’s blog documents his charitable journey and, more importantly, informs others how they can join him.
“If I can inspire one donation, then I believe what I am doing is important," he said. "It's been successful in my opinion. So far $1,825 has been donated by my efforts, and the Living Philanthropic blog has inspired over $1,400 donated by subscribers.”
Social media has been a powerful force in spreading awareness to others. Garcia started a Facebook page and utilizes Twitter to notify his followers about the project. He also registered with Crowdrise, a community fundraising site, and is planning to feature a new charity each month.
“This way I can give my friends and followers a quick an easy place to contribute to the cause and be a part of the Living Philanthropic movement,” Garcia said.
Another couple of Generation Yers exhibiting Garcia’s type of do-it-yourself philanthropy is Michael Dice Jr. and Mark Hackman of Chicago Dance Crash. This year the pair put together a benefit show for The Laura Twirls Suicide Awareness Foundation in memory of former company member Laura Maceika. DiceWorks was made up of several short original sketches written by Dice and performed by more than 30 of some of Chicago’s most talented professional actors, musicians and dancers; Hackman handled the online/offline marketing and promotion efforts.
Dice and Hackmen used online networking to generate interest for their event. Each of the actors changed their profile pictures on Facebook to the poster design created for DiceWorks, thereby exposing more than 30 people on Facebook averaging more than 500 friends to the event poster. Each time a member of DiceWorks commented on someone’s status, uploaded a photo album or shared a link, his or her profile image was attached to the activity. Everywhere the cast members of the show went on Facebook, DiceWorks was with them.
Another great example of DiceWorks’ excellent use of social media is how it decided to use collaboration when administering the Facebook page for the event.
“I made each of the cast members an administrator for the Facebook event page. This allowed each cast member to invite their own set of friends, e-mail out to external accounts, tag friends, upload images and share on individual Facebook profiles,” Dice said.
I asked Hackman what he thought was the most important thing he learned from the experience, and all three individuals — Dice, Hackman and Garcia — had similar sentiments.
“I would say the most important thing was simply the influence a small group can have," Hackman said. "DiceWorks’ goal was to raise $2,000 and sell 200 tickets while incurring no expenses. We were able to not only meet but exceed these goals with very hard work from a few individuals, which then inspired personal investment from a small army of others. Effort begets more effort, and a cause is infectious so long as people jumping on board know there's already those there that will work alongside them and more.”
So what does all this mean? Here are my takeaways from interviewing these anything but lazy and apathetic Gen Yers:
1.) Rather than focusing on how to target Generation Y, focus on the mission of your organization and try and make it as compelling as possible. Tell the story, skip the fluff and get to the point — tell us what we can do and make it more than just a donate button.
2.) Social media will continue to be a factor in acquiring new donors — but perhaps in a way different from the standard methods. As you can see from the two examples, do-it-yourself philanthropy is becoming increasingly popular among Generation Y, and social media is the most logical place to promote causes. Find your advocates (Garcia in the above example), and they will help you find donors you may never have had a chance to reach by utilizing their networks.
3.) Provide tools for advocates to take up your cause. A great example of an organization doing this is GirlEffect.org.
4.) Get it out there. Make sure your organization is registered on websites like Network for Good, Crowdrise, JustGive and various other sites designed to allow supporters to advocate on behalf of an organization. Use social networks to highlight the people who are taking advantage of these opportunities, and show others how they can join in.
5.) Have options. We may want to give online, through Facebook, at the supermarket checkout or after we check you out on GuideStar — but make sure the options exist and the steps to execute the donation are not laborious. After all, we generation Y kids have such short attention spans …