Cultivating young philanthropists

July 22, 2014 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

headshot of suzanne allenRecently I was invited to speak to a group of high schools students about philanthropy and after my diatribe about the many definitions of philanthropy, who gives and what they give to, I asked them to share their experiences as philanthropists.

I received a few quizzical looks and reminded them that philanthropy is more than just giving money to a charity: it is also about volunteering your time and abilities to help create a stronger community. I explained that whether you are raising money, raising awareness or helping to solve a problem, you are engaging in philanthropy. Every student then had a story to tell and each person, without exception, shone with pride in the telling.

millennial infographicAccording to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nearly 75 percent of young people who responded to a survey – that led to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report – said they made a gift to a nonprofit in 2011. Another 70 percent said they have helped raise money by encouraging friends, colleagues and family members to support a cause they cared about.

While these aren’t large donations, the fact is that over half of those surveyed had volunteered at the organization where they made the gift and nearly all said they plan to volunteer at the organization that received their gift.

But this shouldn’t surprise you. Our young donors share the same motivations as older people (that’s how the high schools students labelled me) have about philanthropy. We all like to believe in the mission and vision of the nonprofit and most of us choose to support a nonprofit because we’ve developed a relationship with the organization.

how many millennials gave a financial gift in 2012However, many of us who are more seasoned (I like that term better than older) givers had a role model or a mentor who helped us understand the importance of giving and how to give our “time, talent and treasures” effectively.

I closed my talk with these thoughts. “You are already a philanthropist, but what you want to be is an experienced philanthropist. The only way to do that comes through life experiences and learning from them. You need to watch, listen, ask questions, learn as much as you can and then practice generosity. Look for a mentor and ask for help. You’ll get to think bigger and think collaboratively and really make a difference in the causes you care about. And when people ask me what I think the future of philanthropy looks like, I can honestly say that I know the answer to that question: I’ve met you.”

Share your story, I’d love to hear from you!

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.


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