Giving Compass' Take:
- Lisa Zola Greer explains why she believes that the existing model for cultivating donors is alienating younger would-be philanthropists, and offers an alternative pathway.
- Why might the wants and needs of younger donors be different from previous generations? Are you satisfied with the current state of philanthropy?
- Read about young philanthropists today.
What is Giving Compass?
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For two decades, charitable giving in the US has been steadily declining. While economic factors and world crises explain some of this drop, experts have missed one overriding factor: For Millennials, Gen Xers, and most people under 70 who have the capacity to make significant gifts, donating to charities is too often onerous, dehumanizing, and exhausting. As a donor, board member, and businessperson, I see an impending crisis in the $410-billion world of philanthropy.
Most current and prospective donors today crave organic connection and impactful collaboration. Yet the techniques that most nonprofits use to fundraise are often a turn-off: gala dinners; wasteful, manipulative lunches; and a style of communication meant to keep would-be activists ignorant and happy.
Older donors are dying, and the new crop of potential donors is walking away.
About 10 years ago, I became, almost overnight, a One Percenter and a major donor. Soon thereafter, I met with David Levinson, the founder and director of Big Sunday. Big Sunday is an amazing nonprofit that connects people who want to volunteer or donate with other organizations that need help. We wanted to explore how Josh and I could make a significant impact in supporting our city’s most needy.
David came informed. What do you care about?’ he asked.
I loved the directness of his question, and in response we discussed some of the most pressing needs in Los Angeles, where we live. These were many, what with the country still being in the fog at that time of the 2008 recession. Throughout the conversation, David was engaged, informed, and utterly reciprocal. He didn’t pander, and not once did he pretend that we weren’t talking about a gift.
David sent us a proposal after that, which included a number of workable options. Among them was something we called the ‘End of the Month Club,’ an initiative so named for the way it would address the high demand experienced at the end of each month by food banks, whose clients have used up all their money at that point, and need help to feed their families. The idea was to engage corporations and institutions, as well as volunteers, to ensure that the pantries would be stocked at exactly the point that the food-insecure need them.
We told David we loved the idea. At which point he gave us a number for what it would cost, assured us we could fund the requisite staffing, and we were sold.
What I appreciated about the interaction, and all the more in retrospect, is that David didn’t come with prepackaged ideas, nor did he present a number that he’d determined in advance. We had a real conversation of substance. Something special happened when David engaged Josh and me as thinking, feeling people whose reasons for having the conversation in the first place were not all that different from his own.
Wouldn’t it be great to get to a place where organizations trust donors enough to be transparent, and donors trust organizations enough to let them lead? That place is where we realize that we want the same thing: organizations that are as effective as they are visionary, and outcomes that change the world.
Read the full article about young philanthropists by Lisa Zola Greer at Stanford Social Innovation Review.