GIF of millennial with green tank top and striped gloves exclaiming it's like she' is Mother Teresa.

Source: Reddit

The millennial generation is often scrutinized for being lazy, selfish, and obsessed with all of the wrong things.  Many claim they are obsessed with technology, celebrities, and of course themselves.  To the contrary, impact reports reveal that millennials are interested in something other than the perfect selfie: giving to charity.  Despite their narcissistic reputation, well over two-thirds of them donated their time, energy, or resources to a cause in the year 2014.  Since then, this trend of “giving back” has sky-rocketed, and evolved even further into a mainstream mentality.

Giving to charity has become “cool”.  This is one of the best things to have ever happened.   Many of us really wish that we could be more giving, but we just don’t know the best way to do it.

Mic celebrities hollywood jane the virgin charity


I’ve done the research and these are three questions that should come to mind to these “new” givers before donating:


1.  Will my donation truly will have the positive effect that I intended?

2.  Is the money or resource that I donate going to go where it is supposed to?

3.  How can I avoid charity scams while still giving back in a way that is both safe, and authentically helpful?


Will my donation truly will have the positive effect that I intended?

Oops, Did I Do That?

This new awareness and willing generosity has sparked a major rise in giving to both non-profit and for-profit organizations.  Millennials seem to be flocking not only to non-profits but for-profit organizations also when they think of donating.   While the thought of profiting  from a cause (as is the case with for-profits) sounds very precarious to those of previous generations, millennials don’t seem to have a problem with it.  The for-profit sector dabbling with the non-profit has brought about a unique set of problems though.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with purchasing a product that you love, resulting in assistance to those in need, however, we need to fully understand the ramifications that can occur before we buy in.


Many Companies Don’t Consider Local Economy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This negative effect of supposed well-meaning charity has been seen in used clothes donations that hinder market development, says economist Dambisa Moyo.  There are many economists that share her sentiment.  They suggest that there are many other things that would help these countries more than a free pair of shoes or t-shirt.  Many places have issues with clean water, electricity, and finding work to support their families.  In other words, people are less inclined to buy locally from the local vendors, when there are smiling Americans giving goods away for free.

If you give a kid shoes, they wear out or they grow out of them, and then what do they have? If you give the kid’s parents a job, the whole family will always have shoes.” – Bethlehem Tilahun, SoleRebels 


There are some for-profit companies that have taken a step back and revamped their approach to charity realizing that their influence has a ripple effect.  One such company is the famous (once infamous) TOMS Shoes.

Toms shoes sitting on bed



TOMS shoes was founded by Blake Mycoskie, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist.  His initial

Blake Mycoskie

Source: flickr

idea was that when you buy one pair of TOMS shoes, another pair is given to an impoverished child in need. While the act of giving shoes to children in less fortunate countries sounds wonderful, to the contrary, it can hurt local vendors.  However, TOMS’ charity campaign has evolved over the years probably because of that initial adverse effect.  Now TOMS’ mission consists of:




  • Donating Shoes for Each Pair Purchase – Helping children and families in the areas of health, education, sports, food, maternal health, and financial literacy.


  • Donating Eyewear for Each Pair Eyewear Purchased AND money – Funding existing eye clinics and hospitals making eye care more readily accessible.


  • Purchase from TOMS Roasting Co. – Supporting the maintenance and ongoing development of safe water systems.


  • Giving Partners collaboration with other organizations– Distributing kits that contain necessary items to help a woman safely give birth and also the much-needed training for skilled birth attendants.


  • Local Partnerships-  Providing training of school staff and remote volunteers to become adept at responding to and preventing bullying.



It’s best to do your homework to find out exactly what a company is doing or not doing to soften the impact of their involvement in local economies.


Is the money or resource that I donate going to go where it is supposed to?

yellow planet aid charity collection binA charity scam we should all avoid is that of charity bins.  Many companies masquerade as charities and place donation boxes throughout major cities in the country.

In Brooklyn New York, pink charity bins were finally revealed as scams.  As a result, other cities have been investigating these bins that seem to be popping up everywhere.  People have been dropping used clothes into these bins thinking that they are going to shelters or other charity organizations.  In actuality, much of the clothes were being traded in to contribute to someone’s personal profit.  This has led to the struggle of actual non-profit organizations.  Many of them have tried to increase the number of bins they put on the streets with hopes that the chances of them getting donations will increase.  This has caused more confusion about which bins are a scam.
When dropping clothes into a bin, pay very close attention to the language they use.  Of course, the safest option would be to drop off used items at a shelter or non-profit organization yourself.   Note that many charities sell a large amount of the clothing donations to clothing recyclers, the money retained is then put back into the charity for legitimate needs.


Warning Signs of Charity Scam

school of sharks

  1. No detailed information about the charities mission or how donations are used.
  2. No proof that your donation is tax deductible.
  3. Has a charity name that sounds very similar to another well-known organization.
  4. Pressures you to donate immediately.
  5. Asks you to wire money or send in cash. (Doesn’t accept checks paid to the name of the organization).

When donating to a charity, ask for detailed information such as the exact name, address, and telephone number.  Google search the name of the charity along with words like scam or complaint or do research on reputable watchdog sites to find out about their trustworthiness.  Never give your private information such as credit card or checking account numbers.


How can I avoid charity scams while still giving back in a way that is both safe, and authentically helpful?

Donate Smart

One great way to help others in need is donating food or money to your local food pantry.  Try sending food that is both healthy and nutritious.  Remember, the less fortunate care just as much about health as you do.  Avoid sending food high in salt such as canned foods.  Despite what many people think, canned foods are often thrown in the trash when sent to food banks.  Not only are they high Back silouhette of three women at sunset hands raised throwing up peace salt, but we often send food that has been sitting in our own cabinets for a long time.   That being said, check the expiration dates on everything you send.  It benefits those you are trying to help and saves you from wasting energy dragging a bag of cans that will surely be thrown out anyway.

Also, don’t wait to be asked for a donation, instead weave it into your everyday life.  If you go shopping and happen to see a buy one- get one free deal on one of your favorite foods, why not think of the less fortunate.  Try researching a cause that really hits your heart.  When you find a cause you feel passionate about, try creating a plan to support that cause in any way that you can.

Ultimately directly donating money  to a charity of your passion can be the best way to help.  I hope that millennials (and everyone for that matter) keep giving but learn to give with discernment while making the world a better place.