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Here are six ways to help young adults get their giving legs under them.
Young adulthood spans some of life’s biggest milestones—from first jobs to first homes—and getting more involved in making a difference can be one of those meaningful new adventures. The National Center for Family Philanthropy’s guide, “Engaging the Next Generation: How to inspire a philanthropic legacy for your donor-advised fund,” shares how you can help the young adults in your family become enthusiastic and knowledgeable as they become engaged in philanthropy. And whether you are engaging them directly in becoming an active part of an existing family giving tradition, hoping to create a new one, or helping them to find their own path, these six tips can assist you.
Spend time talking about your family’s philanthropy: how it started, what you’ve learned and how you think about lasting impact on others’ lives thanks to the family’s grantmaking using your donor-advised fund. Some families even encourage younger members to create videos or oral histories of donors or other family members.
“Families that are the most successful at creating a giving tradition share their stories and make philanthropy a part of their family identity,” says Katie Collins A senior philanthropic strategist with the Fidelity Charitable Private Donor Group, Collins works with many families who use their donor-advised funds similarly to a family foundation—to support a shared family giving program.
Invite the young adults in your family to attend your next meeting at a nonprofit organization or to join you for a site visit, particularly if you think it is a cause they’ll care about personally.
Afterward, ask them about their impressions, what they learned or what most surprised them about the event. Take the next step and have them suggest a new charity, review its strengths and weaknesses and visit the organization with them.
Looking beyond your local community can also be particularly engaging and a jumpstart to philanthropic passion. “These trips can be life changing because they are exposed to a different reality,” says Collins. “You can’t replace that experience—it can create a deep desire to share.”
Teach the young adults in your life how to make philanthropic decisions, offer them a choice of roles in the family’s philanthropic endeavors and give them appropriate levels of responsibility and decision-making authority. Let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.
“The next generation of philanthropists doesn’t want to be pigeonholed in one role,” says Collins. “The more options you can give them, the better.” These roles could include, as examples, nominating grants for consideration for funding, performing the due-diligence on a proposed grant, attending charitable or learning events as the family’s representative, or making decisions about all grants to a particular area.
Becoming a philanthropist might prompt young-adult family members to think about their beliefs on important political and social issues. Be prepared to listen, answer questions, debate issues and reconsider some of your core ideas. Each new generation brings something new to the table, and these discussions are valuable learning opportunities for everyone involved.
You’ve learned how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individual charities, read a nonprofit’s financial statements and more. Share this knowledge so the next generation of philanthropists can direct their giving to the most effective organizations. Resources such as this checklist for questions to ask a nonprofit before making a grant may help to support these conversations.
Some donors establish and fund individual donor-advised funds for the use of young adult children and grandchildren as a place for them to experiment and learn about giving. “That way they can pick what to give to and start to exercise their philanthropic muscles,” Collins says.
While Collins advises against parents or grandparents reviewing these grants and approving them, she does suggest creating time for discussion and reflection together on that giving. “What went well? What didn’t? What’s next?”
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