How to cultivate charitable giving in young adults
Philanthropy offers an exciting array of new opportunities and connections to 17-25 year olds. It develops their social conscious and teaches them about the value of money as they transition into adulthood.
But, with the turbulence of adolescence not far behind, it’s not always obvious how to focus their giving during this age as a parent or mentor.
This article looks at how to encourage and support 17-25 year old adults in charitable giving, whether it’s donating their time and skills or giving directly to their chosen charity.
Independence and identity
Growing independence colours this life stage as young adults start to develop their own personal interests and identity. This means that their charitable giving will take on a different twist from childhood too.
Regardless of a young person’s previous experiences of charitable giving, it is likely they will want to take their own approach to their philanthropic efforts, working within their own age group. Therefore, parents and mentors should support young people in making their own decisions and initiatives.
Most 17-25 year olds also have far more demands on their time than they did as children, whether they’re completing final school exams, to making applications for, and attending, training colleges or university, to finding jobs and building out their own networks of friends and activities.
With this in mind, encouraging young adults to start, or continue, charitable giving that is linked to their individual interests and hobbies should be a key focus. For example, sport, conservation, the environment or political and social views.
Skills, friends and recognition
Pointing out what the young person can gain from philanthropy, what impact they will make and what influence it will bring, without being patronizing, is likely to encourage young adults.
Charitable giving isn’t a one way street. There are plenty of benefits for a young person supporting a charitable cause. Joining networks where they can find like-minded young people who want to make a difference can be extremely rewarding. It can create opportunities to travel and help them to get ahead in their chosen career.
One example of this is the UK network, BeMORE. It involves young working professionals in philanthropy and allows them to connect with like-minded people. In BeMORE, young professionals form groups with about 10 others and each contribute some of their own earnings into a shared pot (usually £1000 each over 12 months).
During the year, the group brainstorms who and how they want to help. Then, with the support of an experienced philanthropist mentor, the group researches charities that meet its criteria, exploring how to have some tangible impact on the lives of others.
Once they agree on a project to fund with a specific charity, then they donate the money they have all contributed or fundraised, and subsequently monitor the impact of their donation.
Once the giving year is completed, the group is encouraged to invite friends to join a BeMore group too. They also have an opportunity to remain in the BeMORE community by attending their events or becoming mentors.
Among many other benefits, this type of experience is likely to boost a young person’s CV. Skills they may learn, such as team work, conducting research, leaderships and mentoring, can provide them with useful experience that is often valued by employers.
Another example of a charitable network that offers a chance to make friends and connections is The Funding Network (TFN). It holds regular live crowd-funding events as well as having a youth network called Young Funding Network (YFN). YFN meets for ticketed live music events with presentations from some key projects that guests are invited to support. In this case the ticket cost then turns into a charity donation.
Today, most 17-25 year olds operate in a predominantly digital world. This has also been one of the biggest disruptors to charitable giving in the past decade, as now almost everyone has a smartphone. Consider the success of crowdfunding platforms and social media charity initiatives such as the Ice Bucket Challenge or #GivingTuesday.
Just as it’s important to focus young people on giving that meets their own interests, it’s also important that it’s convenient for them. Asking them to send a cheque by post will probably be seen as inconvenient and outdated.
JustGiving.com is one of many good examples of digital philanthropy. The website allows donations to be made to thousands of charities via online payments or text message. It also makes it easy for fundraisers to create their own personalised giving pages which they can share with friends to garner support for their chosen cause.
Be a role model
Supporting young people in philanthropy provides a strong foundation for giving throughout their lives but one of the best ways to influence a child is through your own actions. Talk to your child about your own charitable efforts, what impact you feel it has and any mistakes you’ve learnt from in the past. You could invite them to make joint decisions with you on where you will make donations. ‘Do what I do’ is often more powerful than ‘do what I say’.