Plenty of things have changed over the course of generations, and philanthropy, it turns out, is not an exception. Those young philanthropists among us are not only harder to reach using more traditional channels like printed newsletters and mail solicitations, they are also much more focused on (a) actions instead of just money and (b) what’s in for them, than our donating and volunteering forefathers. We want to know more about what we are donating money too, but simulateneosly have much easier ways of doing so (anyone donate $10 to the Haiti Relief Effort by simply texting a number without getting off the couch!?!).
Research by Convio (see two tables in the text below) shows how our distribution varies in comparison with other generations: we are more willing to give back by volunteering and by donating goods. It’s not that we don’t have money to give – although yes, we have less of it – but rather that we prefer to establish different kinds of connections with the charities we support, and we expect to get something back in the form of satisfaction, active participation, and in-person interactions with the people being benefitted by our donation. Fundraising has had to become much more personal instead of just personable.
What this means for us is that we have many more possibilities to target our time and money how we see fit. Specifically, the advent of individual-to-individual philanthropy (i.e. through microfinance facilitators like Kiva), lets us feel personally connected to the causes we choose. Young Professionals Committees have popped up all over place in the last five years, making our charitable work much more social and interdependent with the work of others. Philanthropy has also infiltrated our social media networks, making it both faster and cooler to distribute information, support a cause, promote campaigns to friends and family, etc. Like almost everything else, this effort has gone viral, people!
One of the very creative examples I’ve seen recently is the Whuffie Bank, which tabulates your online reputation through social networks, and then turns that into wealth that you can use to give back to the community. It’s a great new non-profit and it is marketed perfectly for our generation of kind ofgiving-back.
Even old-school elements of the game have morphed to fit our generational demands: corporate volunteerism is much more open to employees volunteering on company time, so we can all donate blood or help Habitat for Humanity, etc while simultaneously getting paid. Soapbox moment: why are we not all doing this? Although employees of all ages are included in these efforts, the general shift in philosophy is reflective of a certain kind of generational influence and, I’m proud to say, a pretty darn good one.
I’ll end my post with a personal anecdote. Recently, my boyfriend and I created a personal fundraising page to raise money for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation. We selected our own running event to participate in, set up the page, and have been fundraising for an organization we care about completely on our own. By that I mean that this was all done with ZERO prompting directly from the VFW Foundation. So go ahead, search for creative and individualized ways to donate your stuff, time, money, skills! Options = Empowerment = Incentive.