Next generation philanthropy. No matter how you define the next generation, many foundations struggle to engage this subset into their philanthropy. “The most important thing is to treat young people as equals at the board table,” says Susan Price from the National Center for Family Philanthropy. “They don’t know everything the older generation knows, but they know some things the older generation doesn’t. This should be a two-way partnership, not the elders passing down their wisdom from on high.”
Next Generation Philanthropy: Starting Questions
From the outset, you should take time to reflect on the following questions about engaging your next generation in philanthropy:
- Why do you want to engage the next generation?
- How do you define the next generation?
- Who in your family or organization are potential qualifying members?
- What are potential obstacles for engaging them?
- How would you describe your ability to communicate with members of the next generation?
Let the Next Generation Shape Their Involvement
Do you like it when people tell you what to do and how to do it, without your giving input? Probably not. To help the next generation feel valued and engaged, find a way to involve them in the decision-making process from the start. Start with conversations about how the next generation wants to participate.
“Some families want to lay out a plan for the next generation rather than asking what they’re ready for. If we ask how they’d like to be involved, they often give us the best guidance of all,” says Sharna Goldseker from the Goldseker Foundation.
During conversations like these, there will certainly be a range of responses. Some young adults may be ready for full participation on the board. Others may want to take on a small or time-limited role. Contrarily, some will decline the offer. In the case of declines, ask again in a year or two. Keep the door open for participation when they are ready.
Create Space for Real Participation
What opportunities are there for the next generation to get involved? Can they serve on the board, join a committee, or qualify for a staff position? Could they learn the ropes by shadowing a board member, sitting in on meetings, or joining site visits?
“I’ve been going on site visits with my dad,” says Sapphira Goradia, executive director of the Goradia Foundation. “It’s been so helpful to see what questions he asks from a business perspective. I think we better understand how we complement each other in this work.”
The key is to have the conversation about involvement early and often, and to avoid coming to the table with predetermined options.
“Instead of asking how we can make the next generation engage, ask different questions,” Kerry McHugh and Katherine Palms wrote in a blog post. “How can this next gen-er find interest in philanthropy? What can they contribute? What can they learn?”
Exponent Philanthropy members involve the next generation in philanthropy in a range of ways, many at the urging of the next generation themselves. Which are a good fit for you and your foundation?
10 Ways To Engage the Next Generation in Philanthropy
- Invite the next generation to site visits so that they can experience and be inspired by the foundation’s work.
- Encourage the next generation to attend philanthropy workshops and conferences, and provide funds to make it possible.
- Take the time to educate the next generation about the foundation’s history, mission, grantmaking strategies, finances, and investment practices.
- Involve the next generation in capturing the foundation’s history in writing or on videotape.
- Let the next generation make discretionary grants and/or match their individual giving.
- Encourage the next generation to become well versed in the issues about which they are passionate, and to get involved as volunteers, not just as donors.
- Connect the next generation with a board member or trusted advisor as a mentor.
- Create internship opportunities for the next generation if your foundation has staff.
- Connect your next generation with those from other foundations.
- Create opportunities for involvement by the next generation beyond board service (e.g., serving on a committee, suggesting prospective grantees).
Check Out Our Next Gen Fellows Program
February 28 – September 18, 2024
A 7-month, virtual leadership development program for those 18–35 who are involved in all types of foundations as current or soon-to-be trustees or staff. We designed this program for deep learning, engagement, and peer networking to prepare you to lead both from your current position and in the future. The deadline to apply for the 2024 cohort is December 7, 2023. Learn more »