The Difference-Making Potential of Black Millennials

Everyone reaches the point where we wonder and even worry about the younger generation. We will start sentences with “When I was your age,” and try to offer teenagers and young adults our best advice. It has always been this way between older and younger people. Conversations between the generations show us how times are changing, but they also help us pass on traditions and maintain our culture.

For most of my life, I’ve been interested in strengthening communities by developing leaders. The goal of my series of articles I will be posting here is to promote leadership among Millennials (or Generation Y), who are our youngest adults, and their older siblings or cousins – who are often called Generation X. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people born between 1981 and 1997 are already the nation’s largest living generation. A top demographic study projects that by 2020 – only three years from now — Millennials will make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce.   

Millennials have picked up a reputation for being self-centered, uncommitted, and looking at their smart phones most of the time. But like most perceptions of any large group, these “traits” are exaggerated. In fact, Millennials actively participate in benevolent causes that are important to them, according to The Millennial Impact Project, an ongoing survey of 75,000 Millennials conducted by the Case Foundation and the Achieve research organization. The Millennial Impact Project has found that 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money for nonprofit organizations they believe in. More than 78 percent of them gave money to a charity in 2014, with no employer involvement. 

A young sister named Ebonie Johnson Cooper understands the potential her generation has to do good. Ebonie is a marketing professional based in Washington, D.C., who has a knack for social media engagement. But her true passion is young black philanthropy. Through workshops and training sessions, Ebonie encourages young black professionals, ages 25-40, to strengthen their civic leadership and charitable giving. She is founder of a nonprofit known as the Young, Black and Giving Back Institute, and as a scholar at New York University, she released groundbreaking research in 2013 on African American Millennials and their potential as “the next generation of Black Philanthropy.”

During a recent discussion (which can be heard here), Ebonie and I talked about what she’s doing to push her peers toward more community involvement. She told me that her research has found that 72 percent of black Millennials – who happen to be people her age – “were exposed to giving as a child, so that had an effect on their aspirations to give as adults.” Ebonie said she gets good results by reminding young black adults of their natural empathy for the people they grew up with and know well. “When we go into our community, it’s a different type of engagement” than young whites have with black institutions, Ebonie said. “I think our desire to give comes from a different place. We tend to give to people who look like us. I think we’re incentivized a little differently.”

It’s an empathy that can pay off in a big way for black social institutions, that’s for sure.  What do you think? What’s your take on the next generation of “Black Philanthropy?”

About Dr. Geneva Williams:

As a master leadership strategist, she works with women entrepreneurs and nonprofit executives to provide proven strategies for leadership in their work and in their community. She helps startups develop and mentors GenXers and Millennials to succeed in their careers and explore possibilities beyond the corporate world.

For more info: visit www.DrGenevaSpeaks.com and hear her podcasts, Dr. Geneva Speaks and Ignite to Impact there as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *