are a number of things to think about with this particular brain teaser. (I
guess thats what makes it a brain teaser!) Here are just some things for
your team to consider as you focus on growing the next generation of
If it is
true that growing philanthropy starts at home, and that kids learn by example,
are there ways your organization can encourage families to work together to
help your efforts? Do you encourage families to bring everyone, and to help out
together? What work needs to be done around your organization that can be
turned into special family volunteer activities? Are there opportunities you
can provide for families to model those behaviors to each other (and involve
their friends!)? Whether its clearing the weeds in the back lot, hauling
and sorting donated goods, or doing a large mailing over pizza - brainstorm a
list of fun events families can do together to help your
Does your organization engage
everyone, young and old, NOT in what interests you, but in what interests THEM?
People of all ages will provide all sorts of assistance if they are encouraged
to give of all their gifts, not just their money. Does your organization have a
way to engage anyone who cares about your mission - young or old - in a way
that builds on the strengths of those individuals, rather than simply doing
what you need to get done?
When we were still running
Tucsons Diaper Bank, a friend thought it would be great if the Diaper
Bank was in our communitys holiday parade (and I do mean
friend in every sense of the word. See the
Intro to FriendRaising to see why I stress that).
Unfortunately, the parade was the same day as our day-long Diaper Drive
kick-off event in the park. We had not a spare moment to organize one more
many groups who would have said, We just cant do it that day. But
please, come help us in the park.
was so excited about the parade. So we asked her, Would you be willing to
carry the ball on that for us? The way she lit up, you would think we had
asked her if she would share our lottery winnings! She immediately got to work.
She asked Home Depot for some scraps to build a cart that would look like a
crib. Then she got a bubble machine. Add the Diaper Banks banner and some
diapers to fill the crib, and Voila! The Diaper Bank was in the
result that mattered, though, was not that we had a float in the parade. What
mattered was that Sue was now bought in to the Diaper Banks efforts 100%.
Did that grow her sense of philanthropy? You bet!
of your current donors, can you list two things they would love to help with,
that has nothing to do with money? Is there a way to translate their passion
for gourmet cooking, or gardening, or cinema, or football into a way to help
talk with corporate leaders, can you tap into all the things they value beside
their money - their wisdom, their connections, their ideas? When you talk with
funders, instead of pitching your own story, are you spending time digging into
their brains for the immense knowledge they have about the
it comes to young people, if you want to grow philanthropy, have you asked them
what they would like to do to help your cause? You will be surprised (unless
you have kids yourself, and then nothing surprises you!) at how creative and
energized they will be in their efforts to further your mission!
of just giving them a project you think they will like, if you are serious
about growing the next generation of philanthropists, perhaps its time to
do some Group Sleuthing with young people around the question, What could
young people do to help further our mission?. (See Strategy #24 in
FriendRaising for the how-tos of Group Sleuthing.) Be prepared, though -
this will be some of the most engaged philanthropy you can
While were on the subject
of Group Sleuthing, if you want to engage young people in philanthropy, have
you involved them directly in the issues that matter to them? No, I dont
mean a Youth Advisory Board. I mean real hands-on, meaningful
involvement in and responsibility for things that matter about your mission.
The best example we know of this is Every Voice in Action Foundation, a small
family foundation whose mission is to provide a voice for young people. And one
of the many ways they have done so is to
grant-making process over to those young people!
One more thought. Perhaps it is
time to stop asking, How can we get young people involved in
Young people care about their
communities. And yet we older folks ask this question as if they do
not care at all - as if we have to somehow cajole young people to pay attention
to the place that is their home just as much as it is ours. When we are
involved in conversations about growing the next generation of
philanthropists, I secretly expect to hear the phrase those young
whipper snappers come up!
Young people are no less likely
to want to take action on behalf of their communities than the people asking
the questions about growing philanthropy. I have not done a scientific study,
but I would be willing to bet the numbers of young people just sitting home,
apathetically pounding on video games, caring not a lick for their communities,
is the same proportion of people my own age sitting home watching sports or
reality shows on tv and caring equally little about the world outside their
would be further willing to bet that the numbers of kids who would love to help
improve their community may even be higher than the number of adults who
currently give their time to do the same.
thats the final brain teaser when it comes to growing philanthropy: Are
you spending time lamenting the apathy in kids these days? Or are you finding
ways to provide all sorts of opportunities for young people to share their
passion and their gifts? Are you thinking philanthropy must be somehow
extracted out of young people despite their loud objection? Or are you assuming
it is a natural part of our humanity, to want to help others, and therefore
finding ways to encourage and inspire that in EVERYONE in your community, young
and old, rich and poor?
want to grow the next generation of philanthropists, be the catalyst for
engaging the gifts and the enthusiasm and the compassion of the young people in
your community. And who knows - they may just teach YOU a thing or two about
how to grow philanthropy!
Strategy #24 on Group Sleuthing can
be found in FriendRaising Click