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February 14, 2013

Young Generations’ Approach To Philanthropy

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For some time I have been following the philanthropic and legacy efforts of Generations X and Y and how they differ from Traditionalists and Boomer generations in general. Also I’ve been advising on conflicting approaches within families that financial advisors and planners often need to address with their clients. So the report “Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy” by 21/64 and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy caught my interest. I found the conclusions align pretty much with my more limited research and my experiences working with inter-generational workplace issues.

The examples of what twenty-somethings are doing are quite enlightening. As always they want to do it their own new way, not only in their use of technology, but also in making it about connecting with other people. Though some of the young people I worked or spoke with had substantial wealth, most others were finding ways to donate very limited assets and make them add up to become very meaningful contributions.

Here are the typical elements I noticed concerning this philanthropic activities.

  • The younger generations are looking for an “experience.”
  • They prefer ongoing involvement rather than an annual event.
  • What really juices many of them is to be able to connect directly to the recipient of their contribution
  • They use e-mail blasts to urge everyone they have ever come in contact with to join in. They are very open in their connections and it’s all about connecting.
  • They like voting for “the person who contributes the most…” and cash awards and recognition.
  • They are drawn to compete in contests; they like competitions and prizes.

According to Sharna Goldseker, Managing Director of 21/64, consultants on strategic philanthropy and the generations, beneath the surface of much of the under 35-year-old involvement in philanthropic projects is a search for their own identity.

Keep in mind that the Gen Y way is another search for community much as Gen X did, but perhaps for different reasons and with a desire for individual attention. Gen X originally sought community at work because it was missing for them outside of work. Gen Y has been educated in a more collaborative environment and it is their modus operandi.

I definitely see the desire to be hands on and to produce measurable change with their giving. Interestingly, this has been characteristic of the Boomer generation of women donors and something I personally very much relate to. All my professional life I have observed that women donors don’t simply want to write checks.

As for the under 35 year olds in families with foundations desiring to maintain family bonds as philanthropists, that is not surprising. Gen X and Yers are typically quite family-centric. The tension comes.from wanting to have a strong voice and their own style of philanthropy while maintaining family harmony

Millennials don’t think they have to wait to be older and richer. They think they can make meaningful contributions right away, and they do it creatively with new methods and tools.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps organizations solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients to achieve better productivity and knowledge transfer, retention, succession planning and business development results.  Phyllis is president of Practice Development Counsel, consulting and coaching, and author of The Rainmaking Machine” and “The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists” (West/Thomson Reuters 2012) and runs the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIN.

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