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Three Tips for Next Gen Philanthropists

August 11, 2017

August 12th is International Youth Day! Started in 1999 by the United Nations, this is the day we recognize and honor the important role of young people in promoting peace, social justice, and environmental conservation.

Many young philanthropists have already made their mark on the sector with their involvement in projects and movements that create a sustainable impact worldwide. By empowering the next generation to become involved in philanthropy and to develop innovative responses to our world’s most pressing challenges, we can better equip our communities to face future challenges.

Next generation (or “next gen”) philanthropy has several broad definitions. It can refer to charitably giving pursued by people aged 18-40 with wealth that is either self-made or inherited from older generations. Some donors who take innovative approaches to their philanthropic projects also identify as next gen regardless of their age, instead focusing on their new philanthropic approach. In the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Roadmap guide, Next Gen Philanthropy: Finding the Path Between Tradition and Innovation, we offer our own definition: “Next generation philanthropists are people who see themselves as descendants rather than ancestors, who want to use their wealth to be of service to others.” Regardless of age or inheritance, innovation or tradition, next gen donors are ushering in a new era of giving.

There are many ways to become involved in philanthropy early in life; for those looking to take the leap into thoughtful, effective giving, here are some guidelines to help navigate your first venture into philanthropy.

  • Perceive your wealth as a tool.

Coming into wealth can open a world of opportunity – but it also comes with questions about how you plan to use it.

The key to proactive giving is viewing your wealth as a tool to help create the future you want to see for the world. Whether you’re investing in global projects or supporting grassroots organizations in your community, your assets can build bridges to provide the services and support your project needs to succeed.

  • Find your philanthropic passion and let it guide your journey.

Perhaps the most important component of developing a giving strategy is feeding your passion for creating change. Recently RPA Vice President Mae Hong shared a valuable insight from her experience working with donors: “Our philanthropy is an expression of our hope.” With a hopeful future in sight, you will be reminded of your giving’s purpose in every step of the way.

  • Create a flexible plan based on experience.

Although some next gen philanthropists are involved in their families’ preexisting projects, many find themselves starting from scratch. Starting your first project may seem daunting at first, with many decisions to make and goals to set. Take things one step at a time and be realistic about the possibility that you may need to adjust your strategy at various points.

As we say in our Philanthropy Roadmap guide, “Perfectionism and philanthropy do not make good bedfellows.” There is no prescriptive approach to creating a giving strategy, and sometimes you may have to take a step back to reassess or revise your plan. Keep in mind that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow.

Regardless of the path you choose on your philanthropic journey, becoming involved with philanthropy early in life can have a significant impact on the sector and your target issue area. Starting a giving plan from scratch can be challenging at times, but with focus, inspiration, and enthusiasm, you can find your place in the next generation that is pioneering new giving methods and redefining philanthropy.

To learn more, read our Philanthropy Roadmap guide Next Gen Philanthropy: Finding the Path Between Tradition or Innovation.


Written by Melissa Blackerby of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors communications team.

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