Millennials have received a bad rap from other generations as being entitled, selfish and socially inconsiderate. However, this really isn't the case. I promise I'm not just saying that as a biased millennial either. Research on millennials actually proves the opposite. According to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report, 73% of millennials volunteered for a nonprofit organization. Four out of five volunteers said that they did so because of their passion for the cause. Some people may argue that millennials are only donating their time but that isn't the case either. Research also proved that nearly 83% of young Americans donated money to a nonprofit last year. Clearly our generation is one who desires to be involved and be active members of our communities. Whether you recently moved to a new town or are living in the same city you grew up in, there are always ways to get involved in your community that you may not have thought of.
1. Join a Young Professionals Group or Rotary Club
Rotary International is an international service organization whose motto is “Service Above Self,”. Their purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. A total of 1.2 million individuals work hard in their local clubs to tackle their communities' toughest challenges and bring about positive change. Young Professionals groups can be found throughout most towns and have nation-wide groups that are primarily focused on bringing together young influential members of communities and creating a strong network for these individuals to draw upon and continue to build their careers.
2. Vote in Local Elections
One of the most important aspects of being active members of society is voting in local elections. Despite the importance, research done by the Knight Foundation found that only 1 in 5 eligible voters show up for mayoral elections. A more discouraging statistic is that young people vote in lower rates in local elections than any other group. Local elections have the biggest immediate impact on our daily lives. Who your community elects will determine how our neighborhoods look and feel, whether and how our streets are kept clean and safe, how our roads and transit work, what it’s like to have a job, start a business and have kids in the places we live. Politics aren't the most appealing act of community activism for millennials to participate in but nonetheless an important one.
3. Shop Locally
One easy way to get involved in your community and support it at the same time is to shop locally. By forgoing big box chain stores that dominate your local economy, supporting your local entrepreneurs is only going to keep those smaller stores in business and putting money straight back into your local area. Also, getting to know local business owners can be very beneficial in building your local network. Reach out to your Chamber of Commerce for the businesses and their owners in your town.
4. Know your City Council Members
While this may be another less glamorous side of community activism, your City Council members are the people who affect change in your city and whose specific job is to listen to what community members want and need. If you have a problem or see something that you think needs to be changed, visit with a local city official. If they don't know what people want, they won't be able to do anything about it. If you are ever curious about things happening in your town, city council meetings are open to the public.
5. Get Involved in your community through Church
If church and your faith is an important aspect of your personal life, getting involved in your church community and being an active member will allow you to meet a lot of people, volunteer for worthy causes or even go on mission trips while positively representing your community. Churches always have events going on in your local area from bible studies to softball leagues where they welcome any individual to attend.
The most common way to get involved in your community is to volunteer your time and energy into an organization or group that you feel passionately about. Volunteering and doing community service will not only help you become a more well-rounded person but connect you to many other individuals that you may not have been introduced to otherwise. Some examples of large organizations that have local branches all across the country are Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Humane Society of the United States, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, YMCA. Other volunteering options include retirement homes, after-school programs, public libraries, and soup kitchens. The most important thing to remember about volunteering your time is that you will personally get so much more out of the experience if it is a cause or organization that you feel passionate about.
7. Attend Charity Events
While this may not seem like something that many millennials would want to do in their spare time, local charity events are typically where influential and important members of your community will go to donate their money to good causes and socialize with others. It is certainly not a bad place to connect with important individuals in your town who will appreciate seeing a civic-minded and conscientious young person.
8. Organize a Block Party
While we may know our neighbors from a friendly conversation while getting the mail or waving as you pass them on your way to work, not many individuals have close ties or friendships with their neighbors. One way to get to know the people who live on either side of you or down the street is to host a block party. Have everyone set up food or drinks and seating areas in one spot on your street and have it be a come and go event after the work day or on the weekend. Such a great, simple way to get to know one another better.
9. Check out your Community Calendar for Upcoming Events
Simply Google “Your town, community event calendar” and a list of upcoming events in your area should pop up. Whether it be a local film festival, an art gallery opening or BBQ at the park, most of these events are free and a perfect excuse to go out, have a great time and meet people in your community.
10. Beautify the City
Do you ever pass by an empty planter outside your favorite coffee shop or see a huge space of empty land without a tree in sight? Why not get a group of your friends together on a Saturday morning, pitch in for some new flowers or a small tree and spend an hour or two of your time making your city a more beautiful place that you are proud to call home.
11. Take a Class
Feeling the urge lately to learn how to write a short story or how to perfect your yoga poses? Think about taking a class either through your local YMCA or public library who offer classes like these and more at a low-cost.
12. Start a Group or Organization
Maybe there is a particular cause that you feel very passionately about that isn't already being represented in your community. Another fact found in the 2012 Millennial Impact Report was that more than half of young people were motivated to volunteer by their interest in meeting like-minded volunteers. What better way to bring people together for a common good than finding a need within your community and filling it.
These are just a few simple ways to get involved in your community. If you have any other ideas feel free to share those in the comments below! Let's continue to break down generational stereotypes by proving that millennials really are civic-minded individuals who are involved in their communities.
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Young Nonprofit Professionals Network
Rock the Vote
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Humane Society of the United States
Habitat for Humanity
American Red Cross