NEW YORK (Reuters) – At age 22, fourth-grade teacher Jessica King is already a charity veteran.
The recent University of Pennsylvania graduate started volunteering when she was 15, as a swimming teacher to special education students.
As an undergraduate, King and her friends mentored children in West Philadelphia through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. She eventually became the student director of the mentoring program, overseeing about 300 mentors.
“Checks can be written and buttons can be pressed online, but giving a week’s worth of food to someone that you packaged up yourself, that is a different kind of human connection,” King said, who chose her teaching career as another form of giving back to the community.
Passion is the top reason why millennials, aged 18 to 34, support a charitable cause, a recent study by insurer Country Financial found. Favorite charities include those that affect a family member or friend, or have strong community ties.
Facebook billionaire couple Mark Zuckerberg, 31, and Priscilla Chan, 30, are celebrating the birth of their first child by announcing on the social media site that they will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares, currently worth $45 billion, through a new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to “advance human potential and promote equality… Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.”
Millennials prefer to use their personal skills when giving to charity, the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, conducted by research agency Achieve, showed. Seventy-seven percent of millennial employees said they are more likely to volunteer if they can use a skill or expertise to benefit the cause.
“When a millennial gives an asset of any kind, including time, skills, networks and dollars, they view their assets as equal (value),” said Derrick Feldmann, president of Achieve and lead researcher of the Millennial Impact Project.
Sixty-five percent of millennials are likely to volunteer if a co-worker participates in a charity, compared with 44 percent if a supervisor does, the 2015 Millennial Impact report found.
For many millennials, time is the easiest thing to give because their money is limited: only 21 percent plan to give more to charity during the holiday season, according to Country Financial.
Grad student Jenna Moss, 30, for example, has helped coach and do mock interviews with unemployed adults looking to get back into the workforce in New York City. Before returning to school for her MBA, she worked for a non-profit in the art world.
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter offer the most valuable way for millennials to channel their charitable giving, but social media campaigns like the ones on Facebook have limits, Moss said.
“It creates awareness and a community, but that only goes so far. At the end of the day, for example, Planned Parenthood needs money, not just pink images.”