Even though I can be extremely tight with my money and often think about my personal budget quite a bit, I do have several charities that I contribute to on a monthly basis. Most of them are charities or missionaries that I have chosen to give to. Some of my contributions also come right out of my paycheck to go toward the food bank and a couple of other local charities that I have designated.
Recently a co-worker was saying that he gave "too much" out of his check to charity. I asked him how much was too much.
$1 a week.
I asked him why he thought that was too much. That's only $52 a year.
He said that he needed the money more because he was broke and had student loans. He then asked how much I was giving and asked me why I would give at all because I have a kid.
The reason I give to charity is because I know there are a lot of worthy charities and mission work being done that I simply don't have the time or resources to do. There is a need out there and the best thing I can do in this season of my life is give money to contribute toward these efforts. I told him that I have food in my fridge, clean diapers for my kid, and I can pay rent. A lot of people can't say that. Therefore, I can give up the equivalent of dinner out every week to a charity.
As we talked a bit more about it, we concluded that because he is single he does volunteer more than I do. If you do not feel you have the money to give, at least you can give of your time.
But still, I wondered why this guy who is the same age as me felt like he did not have enough money to give to charity. It's not that he couldn't make changes to his lifestyle. He goes out to lunch almost daily. He goes out to drink on the weekend. He could sacrifice one lunch out a week or one beer a weekend and up his giving by a couple bucks a week.
I don't want to blame it on "millennials" not being generous. But I do think maybe it has something to do with age. When you're young, you feel unstable. You likely don't keep a budget and so you overspend in some areas making you feel broke by the end of the month. You don't have much in savings, you don't have a house, etc. so you do not feel secure enough to give. I also think the mounting student loan debt also hurts the ability of the people in my generation to feel like they can give and still have plenty left over.
Hopefully this post doesn't come across as "virtue signaling". I do not think I give just to feel better about myself (although it is satisfying to think I am making a drop of a difference in a large bucket). Ever since I was in just second or third grade, my parents taught me that giving away at least a small portion of my money was just another part of my personal finances. I do not think I've ever given more than 5-7% of my monthly income at any given time, but I have always felt funny if I am not giving anything at all. My parents taught me to be thankful and content. They taught me how much other people do not have and that I have the ability to contribute. There will always be people in need. So as long as I have an income, I can spare a few dollars for the sake of others.
This article from Entrepreneur talks about how millennials only make up 11% of giving to traditional forms of charity but make up 33% of giving on crowd-sourcing sites such as YouCaring. Perhaps young people just want a more interactive and transparent approach to giving -- they want to know that each dollar is going to a person in need and not administrative work. Or perhaps because they feel like they are broke and have too much debt, they prefer to give to charity in the form of volunteer hours, like my friend.