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The Future of Philanthropy: How to Mobilize the Next Generation

While philanthropic households of the past used to pass the baton from one generation to the next, today’s families are actively working together in their gifting. Here’s how to start early.


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Set an example.

“It makes a huge impression on children to see how their parents model doing good in the world, whether it’s serving on boards or doing charitable activities as a family,” says Sharna Goldseker, executive director of 21/64, a firm that advises on multigenerational giving. To demonstrate your impact and put a face to those you are helping, schedule site visits with your kids or bring them along to meetings.

Talk about new approaches to familiar issues.

Certain causes remain eternally popular, but different generations can have different strategies and priorities— and that’s okay. Education, for example, continues to be a leading concern, but while baby boomers are likely to feel more comfortable giving to an alma mater or institution they have a connection to, millennials are favoring organizations that promote social change, like Girls Who Code, a nonprofit working to close the gender gap in the tech industry.

Accept that philanthropy will look different to your kids.

Younger givers want to hear about specific problems the grantee is facing so that they can tailor their resources to the solution. These resources encompass money, talent, and, most important, networks. “That’s not just for quid pro quo—you give to my organization, I’ll give to yours—but more how they can leverage the knowledge of people in their network to make the most strategic difference,” Goldseker says.

Sweeten the deal with incentives that maximize a young person’s potential to give.

“One donor that we work with has a family foundation that matches gifts of the next generation up to a certain amount, which incentivizes the younger members to contribute their own money and achieve similar impact,” Goldseker says. “On top of that, if the family member volunteers time as well, the foundation doubles the match.”


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