Next generation philanthropy, By Gioia Perugini

So much has been written about the “next generation” in philanthropy it’s almost impossible to add to the conversation. Yet I’m going to try. The headlines are that the so-called next generation wants to do things differently from their parents: they want to be more hands-on, they want to make a difference and not just get a job or earn a paycheck, they want new approaches to old problems, and they are banging down the door to get in. Preparing for the upcoming Leading By Example conference on charitable giving gave our team here at H&B a chance to dig deeper than the headlines, and to talk again to that so-called next generation. Some of the headlines rang true, and some hollow.

So which of the headlines are on point?

  • For sure, many younger donors want to be hands-on. They want to see, touch and feel the impact of their dollars. And many of them actively want to participate beyond giving money.
  • They want to partner with others to get the job done. In fact, getting the job done (whether it’s feeding hungry kids, getting people up off the couch, or preserving the local park) is job one. Whether they take all the credit or not doesn’t concern them. They want the work to shine.
  • They use technology to their benefit. All the time, in every way. Especially for Generation Y and Millennials, technology is not an add-on or after-thought, it’s a way of life. And new technology comes on the scene at warp speed. While one demographic is just getting use to PowerPoint, the next will only use Swipe. Facebook is for grandmothers and Instagram is the way to go.

And what did we learn that ran counter to the headline news? Much of the next generation debate frames up as the new generation asking or demanding a seat at the table and the prior generation not sure when, or if, to “let them in.” The reality seems more nuanced than that. In preparation for a session on The Philanthropic Journey, next gen philanthropists talked instead about giving back and forth across the generations. In two cases they were animated about inheriting a legacy of giving back from their grandmothers, and feeling the freedom of taking that spirit and evolving it into a new approach to giving that didn’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. They talked about the impact of their journey not just on their own children, but on their parents and grandparents. It was both rooted in tradition but made modern, and relevant to them and hopefully future generations.

Want to hear more? Join us at the Leading By Example conference, Thursday October 23 at Bentley University and sit in on the session where we’ll discuss the philanthropic journey and have a chance to dig deeper on what it means to give across and with multiple generations.

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