Every Holiday Season comes with an invitation to give as much as to receive. For many people, holidays are a time of celebration in the spirit of sharing. As people from all parts of the nation were joining the feast of Giving Tuesday on December 1, 2015, another surprising news came.
That same day, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan, together pledged to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares (currently worth more than $45 billion) to charitable causes. The vow was reportedly made in honor of their newborn daughter, Max, as the couple is launching a new philanthropic initiative aimed at improving personalized learning and curing disease by building stronger connections with communities. This announcement comes shortly after the couple had already donated $100 million in 2010 to improve the public schools in Newark (Goel et al., 2015).
Zuckerberg, inspired by the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who has previously pledged to give away at least 95 percent of his wealth, is also an active member of the Giving Pledge, an initiative started by Mr. Gates and Warren E. Buffett who have jointly spearheaded efforts to inspire wealthy individuals and their families to donate more than half of their wealth to charities during their lifetimes or after (ibid.).
Changing Culture of Charity at such scale is rare and indicative of a new development in philanthropy. Aside from the sheer amount of money given away, the new culture of giving seems to be placing a stronger emphasis on community building for betterment of people’s lives.
Unlike the previous generations, it also appears that the millennials are increasingly more eager to share their wealth earlier in their career using technology to leverage their philanthropic endeavors (ibid.).
The Chan and Zuckerberg Initiative is not the only exemplar of this trend. Although this movement seems particularly noticeable among Silicon Valley’s young billionaires, there is a growing surge in younger generations all around the globe to give more generously and in a new way.
According to a 2013 study conducted by Blackbaud, millennials have been found to be more interested in giving their time to volunteer for a cause they believe in. At the same time, they are also heavily relying on technology to make monetary contributions. In 2012 and 2013, millennials have reportedly made 47 percent of their charitable contributions through websites while only 27 percent of older generations did (The New York Times, 2015).
Technology also provides an effective platform through which younger generations are able to make connections globally and make new friends with similar values. The Millennial Impact Report (2013) further indicated that in 2013, 73% of millennials have volunteered for a nonprofit or a cause they felt passionate about with 67% believing that they could make an impact. This new paradigm of giving is illustrative how the spirit of charity is being instilled early in younger generations and spreading fast.
Why We Give
The act of giving is intrinsic to human nature. As demonstrated by the new trend, this natural propensity for altruism is closely linked to social connections as an important part of human evolutionary development. Even from the perspective of neuroscience, it has been argued that humans are innately good with our brain wired for goodwill. The argument is also made from the socio-cultural context of human evolution, underscoring the importance of human connection and interdependence not merely for survival but also to advance and thrive as a species (Berlatsky, 2014).
In other words, what’s driving altruistic behaviors is a collective motive to serve the communal purpose. Conversely, however, such motive can be equally used for evil as demonstrated in the rising acts of terrorism all over the world.
Given the potent power, humans have a choice and an obligation to make the world a better place by doing more good even if evil may seemingly prevail and not be completely eradicated.
In the wake of many evil acts growing rampant every day, perhaps this realization might help preserve the fading hope and faith in humanity we originally inherited.
As the younger generations are taking more of an active and proactive role in re-shaping the landscape of giving, we as one humanity are also being asked to be boldly ambitious and proliferate good in whatever way possible.
Berlatsky, N. December 11, 2014. The Neuroscience of Altruism. Pacific Standard. Retrieved from http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/neuroscience-altruism-donald-pfaff-brain-morality-96067
Goel, V & Wingfield, N. December 1, 2015. Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/technology/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-charity.html
The New York Times. 2015. Donation Disruption: How New Technologies and Inspired Millennials are Changing Charity. Retrieved from http://paidpost.nytimes.com/gates-foundation/donation-disruption.html?WT.mc_id=2015-Dec-NYTSModule--1201-1215&WT.mc_ev=click?action=click&module=Marginalia