Shallow, lazy, unfocused, entitled and selfie-obsessed are many descriptors of my generation — the millennial generation. While every age group has examples that may justify stereotypes, this generation as a whole craves opportunities to tackle philanthropic responsibility in a manner that may be more hands-on and impactful than its predecessors.
If you need convincing, consider that the largest ever charitable contribution was made by Mark Zuckerberg — a millennial — or our Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who literally took a bullet to challenge the cultural and societal barriers that prejudice her gender.
The only caveat: We want it on our own terms. And sometimes even the best intentions are misunderstood.
Let’s get local. Despite Miami’s pomp and glitz that many assume distract our youth, millennials here share Mark and Malala’s charitable drive. As a Miami transplant, I see the city from the outside in and appreciate what makes it special: cultural diversity, entrepreneurial spirit, never-ending sunshine and pastelitos, to name a few.
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However, behind everything great about Miami and its numerous opportunities, there are civic leaders and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make it what it is. One day, it will be our turn to ensure Miami keeps giving to the next generation. Part of that duty means facing the socio-economic barriers preventing many in our city from enjoying the prospects and benefits I speak of — issues that we as a generation need to acknowledge and tackle.
In my case, I wanted to do more than write a check and trust that someone else will take care of it. The millennial in me needed to get in the trenches, collaborate with peers, and, most important, see the tangible effects of my donation and volunteer efforts. This led me to United Way’s Young Leaders — a group of go-getters and rising stars who donate at or above $1,000.
With nearly 1,000 members, we are working to address Miami’s most pressing economic and social needs through hands-on projects, awareness building and fund raising. Last year alone, we donated over $791,000 to United Way’s charitable mission; painted a 200-foot-mural at a local elementary school; engaged in in-depth dialogues with Miami business leaders over a series of intimate lunches; championed early literacy by reading with preschoolers; and held an interactive brunch with 400 people to raise awareness and funds to help strengthen our community.
To engage even younger millennials, United Way recently launched LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change) a professional group composed of people 30 and under who contribute $250 annually. Representative of a millennial mentality, this group has already taken a stand on issues that affect our community, through numerous volunteer and service projects, new social-media channels and more. LINC provides greater access to United Way’s charitable mission for a younger segment of the millennial population, many who are just now heeding the call to action.
Led by an executive committee of its own members from diverse backgrounds and workplaces, they are actively developing their own goals. If their sell-out event at Side Bar this month is any indication of what’s to come, we can expect big waves from them in 2016.
More and more, Miami millennials are getting engaged and making an impact — with loud voices and busy hands. And to those who are sitting on the sidelines, because of career constraints or thinking that their efforts will not matter, we need you. The reason is simple: Miami will be in our hands one day and it is our privilege and right to make it into the city we know it can be. Join us . . . get involved, get your hands dirty, and heck, take that selfie to prove you did.
Matthew Grosack is an attorney at DLA Piper LLP (US), and United Way Young Leaders co-chair.