Commentaries

If You Offer Us a Seat at the Table, We Will Pack the Room

Jessa has over 15 years’ experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors.  Previously the director of an international sales organization, Jessa now makes philanthropy her full time commitment.  Growing up in a philanthropic culture, Jessa was awarded the prestigious Bonner Scholarship for her community service and graduated from Guilford College with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry.  She is now in her second semester at New York University’s Masters Program at the Heyman Center for Philanthropy.  Jessa’s primary focuses are in human rights advocacy and humanitarian aide as well as community oriented projects through fundraising and special event planning.  She sits on the Board of Directors of SAC and has had the privilege of working with such organizations as Shift the Power to the People, Special Olympics, UNICEF, American Indian Heritage Foundation, NYU Africa and Philanthropy interest group and the New York City Public School System.


 

For far too long younger generations had been overlooked as a viable source for philanthropic participation. So many of the ages from 25-40 are of the means to make a financial difference in the causes of various organizations. However, the issue for these donors has been getting a seat at the table. This generation wants to be involved. They are engaged donors who want to not only take part in the causes they fund but also have the desire to fundraise themselves. 
 
Traditionally for many decades, young donors had not been taken seriously as viable contributors. Recently, however, many organizations have shifted their attentions to the 25-40 year olds as not only a means for funding but also as a long term investment for the future of their organizations. Many have formed junior councils or boards that are often membership based with high fees thereby attracting the type of donor that will be prepared to be brought along the donorship continuum.
 
As the amount of organizations forming these councils has increased, the non-profit sector has responded with additional interest and resources. Positive financial returns from younger donor committees have called to action various infrastructure organizations to support and cultivate the philanthropy of our next generation.   The Council on Foundations has formed the Next Gen Task Force which focuses on input from younger philanthropists. 21/64 is a consulting firm whose expertise is younger philanthropic advisement as well as bridging the communication gap between generations in wealthy families. Institute of Philanthropy has developed a certificate program called Next Generation Philanthropy targeting 18-30 year olds. Research is even being conducted to analyze the impact of generations X & Y by the Minneapolis Foundation and the Johnston Center of Philanthropy. This trend has spread overseas as well, as the Legatum Institute in London conducts a Next Generation Forum to discuss and strategize young philanthropy. 
 
Infrastructure such as research, consulting, training and the opening of the community to the younger generations is unprecedented. In the non-profit sector finding support around any specific topic has proven to be challenging. The industry rallying around the next generation of philanthropists speaks to foresight in cultivating these young donors and teaching them the intricacies of philanthropy rather than inheriting them later in life. 

 

However, there is work to be done as many organizations still shut their doors to younger donor input. If a generation of donors wants to engage in philanthropy, then why not teach them the most effective ways to do so? Evidenced by membership councils having proven to be such successful fundraising sources, these young donors are exceptional at bringing in like-minded individuals to organizations.   Thus, if you invite them to the table, they will literally pack your room.




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