As the NAACP prepares to honor Martin Luther King Day with acts of service, it’s also looking to inspire young people beyond Jan. 21 to make helping others an integral part of their lives.
“There are a lot of people who look at our young people and are dismissive of them,” Benjamin Jealous, chief executive of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People, said in an interview with the Chronicle of the Philanthropy about the challenges of mobilizing the younger generation to do good.
Jealous says one solution is motivating them to take action in response to an issue that angers them.
“Medical Matt” is one activist who did just that.
When Matthew Kraushar, a 26-year-old medical student, saw the deplorable conditions after Superstorm Sandy, it spurred him to spearhead a relief effort for hurricane victims who had chronic, and sometimes, complicated medical conditions, Fox News reports.
"We were essentially trying to put out fires before they started," he told the news outlet.
It’s people like Kraushar who are pushing back against the perception that the millennial generation is money-obsessed and not quite concerned with giving back, as one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded in March.
"These data suggest that the 'Me Generation' label affixed to the baby boomers was unwarranted. In comparison to the proceeding generations, the boomers look significantly more selfless," lead researcher Jean Twenge said in a press release. "It will be interesting to see how millennials are affected by the recent recession and whether future generations will reverse the trends."
But the news about millennials’ giving tendencies isn’t all bad. A report released in June found that 75 percent of young people donated to causes in 2011and 63 percent said they gave their time to volunteer.
“What we heard over and over again is that Millennials are eager to give if they’re already engaged in a conversation with the charity,” Derrick Feldmann, chief executive of Achieve and Johnson -- one of the groups that conducted the survey -- told Philanthropy.com when the Millennial Impact Report was released.
Jealous and the NAACP recognize that mobilizing young people will require just that, finding out what engages them and pushing them to take meaningful action.
“Listen to them first,” Jealous told the Chronicle of the NAACP’s approach, “find out what they are really angry about, and then say, ‘This is how we turn it outward, and we actually overcome that issue.’”