Feb 3, 2011

Kids Will Be Kids…and Much More

Ever heard the term “philanthro-teen?” I hadn’t, until I read a recent article touting the emergence of a new constituency in the charitable arena – teenagers. “Armed with new technology and an awareness of global issues, post-Millennials are engaging in social entrepreneurship in previously unimaginable ways. Though still materialistic, these teens and even preteens want to do something more significant than acquire the latest i-Pod Touch or Wii.”

Some interesting facts about this group. In the past year:

  • 79% of girls in the United States have contributed food or clothing
  • 53% have given their own money
  • 66% have asked family or friends to give or volunteer

And, more than 75% say they will regularly give to charity when they are older, versus 63% in 1989, according to a nationwide survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute of 3,263 students in grades three through 12.

This development is noteworthy and exciting for a whole host of reasons. Clearly, raising a generation that feels a responsibility to give back bodes well for the future of our communities, nation and world. I am hopeful that it speaks to a shared set of universal values that includes compassion, justice and equality. From a professional vantage, this potential cadre of donors offers a myriad of possibilities to schools and organizations.

Am I thinking senior gift, class agent and alumni rep? Yes, but. The real opportunity lies in the role we, as fundraising professionals, can play in educating young people about the importance of philanthropy in our world and the value of their engagement in this area. Schools have investment clubs, debate teams and speech groups. What about a philanthropy elective or giving club? Similar to the Wall Street wannabe simulations, where kids get $10,000 to invest and strike it rich, these students could take that $10,000 and divvy it up between organizations they have researched and whose missions they can embrace. Or, they could use their fund to launch (on paper) a non-profit to respond to an unmet need or crisis event.

How many times have you wished you could get out from behind your desk/computer/phone and connect with students, rather than craft annual fund appeals and proofread the alumni newsletter? Here’s your chance. And even better, I am guessing that you might even learn something from these enthusiastic, focused, tech-savvy philanthro-teens. After all, they’re just kids.


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