How Millennials Can (and should) Change the Way We Give
A plan to effectively impact positive world change
A neighbor, recently down on their luck, approaches you to ask a small favor. “I need to run to the store and my car just broke down. Do you mind if I borrow yours for a few hours?” Certainly not an unreasonable request, so you oblige under the condition that they fill up the tank with the $20…OK, $50 that you hand them along with the keys to your car. Doing so will save you fifteen minutes or so in the morning when you head out of town for vacation.
The next morning you hop in your car and start making your way down the road. A few hours into the trip your low gas light comes on; strange, a full tank should of last at least a few more hours. While filling up at the next exit you decide to give your neighbor a call.
“Hey, never letting you borrow my car again, did you happen to fill up my tank with that money that I gave you when you borrowed my car yesterday?”
He replies, “Umm mostly, but I only put $25 in, I needed the rest to cover my grocery bill. Sorry, I didn’t think you would mind…wouldn’t want an old neighbor going hungry would ya?”
OK, this isn’t the end of the world, but clearly the money wasn’t used for what you had intended it for. Now you are left with a bad taste in your mouth and a dwindling trust for your neighbor. (I hope you locked your doors before you left). This situation happens all too often…not referring to the annoying exchange between neighbors but the complete disregard and manipulation of honest generosity.
Flummery (as it relates to deception, not custard)
Over the past few years I have dedicated more and more of my free time to helping others discover the best way to impact positive change for the things that they are passionate about (a derivative of my personal desire to do so). Encouraging people to get involved with a charity that represents their favorite cause was a natural first step in the process. Charities typically already have a model in place to impact positive change so people can easily get plugged in and start making a real difference for the things that they are passionate about. Regardless of what you want to make a difference for, you can likely find a charity that will be glad to let you jump in and lend a helping hand. On the surface this model seemed to make perfect sense.
However, it wasn’t long before my neighbor came asking to borrow my car…
The more research I began to do to find various charities the more I began to feel like I was doing something wrong. Time and time again I came across organizations that seemed more like marketing firms than change agents. It was not uncommon (and still isn’t) for me to come across organizations that uses their donations, grants, etc. to support marketing and administrative expenses that make up 50%+ of their overall budget, putting them into the same category as our dear neighbor in terms of flummery (as it relates to deception, still not custard).
I couldn’t help but to think about all of the people that support some NPOs under the impression that a more reasonable amount of money is being donated to directly impact the cause they are passionate about. Perhaps the most bothersome part of this situation is the opportunity cost, or potential impact the beneficiaries are missing out on.
This is not to say that non-profits should not have a marketing budget, nor that they should limit salaries to the point where they are unable to attract capable and talented employees. However, all of this should be relative to the impact they are making for the cause that they represent.
But how can we make a deeper impact for the causes we are passionate about and begin to implement a more effective strategy for positive change? In other words, how do we stop our donations from falling through the cracks before they reach their intended destination?
Ask not what your charity can do for you…
Think about your last 5 donations of at least $50. How many of these organizations would you have given to if they had not had some sort of event that you were invited to?
Not that I agree with it, but I completely understand why some organizations feel that it is necessary to spend so much of their resources on marketing, events, and other fundraising activities. Much of our society has developed a “what’s in it for me” mentality, one that has us waiting until we are invited to the next celebrity wait night dinner before we make a donation. In general, our approach to charitable giving is one that starts with colorful post cards, fancy dinners, and the annual 5k (at which I am determined to beat my neighbor).
If we (the donors) want to truly impact change we have to stop waiting for an invitation. We must start proactively pursuing ways to make a difference for the things that we are passionate about. We need to get back to the foundation of why we give.
Our number one goal needs to be to support an organization in a way that allows the highest percentage of donations to funnel through to its intended purpose. Otherwise, we are simply running in slow motion in terms making a true impact. As donors it is our responsibility to express the importance of higher financial stewardship standards among non-profits but only after we have taken the lead by choosing to support the cause…not an event.
The Tipping Point
There has never been a more capable generation of making dramatic changes to the way we give than today’s Millennials. Connecting with people that have the same goals, beliefs, and outlook has never been easier. With the ability to communicate instantaneously, and answers to just about any inquiry imaginable (thanks Google), we are able to use our ever growing social networks to spread support (or lack thereof) for just about anything.
Traditional charity events attempt to create advocates for a cause which is why they often yield sub-par results (An “I like blue so you should to” mentality). If we want to create a pool of supporters that is sustainable and effective we must focus on cultivating advocates. The resources that are available to us today have never made this easier. Thanks to the internet we can now connect to like-minded individuals and recruit qualified advocates for our cause.
As the next generation of donors, we are closing in on a fork in the road. One will lead us down a path of unprecedented change for world’s most desperate causes; the other will take us back down a very familiar road. Continue reading if you would like to help steer us towards the former….
Steps/Resources for Millenials looking to make a difference:
Identify a cause (not a charity) – What is the first thing you would change if you could snap your fingers and have it be done? What gets you fired up when you read about it, or see it on the news? If you need a little extra help identifying a cause try volunteering. www.volunteermatch.org/ will help you find opportunities in your area.
Identify a charity – This step is very important in terms of the impact you will be able to make on the cause that you have identified, whether you give time or money. Visit www.charitynavigator.org and type in the cause that you have identified. You will get a list of charities with different ratings. I recommend paying close attention to the financial rating. Ultimately, the higher the financial rating the more effective your donations will be.
Get involved – Once you have identified a charity visit their website and shoot them an email letting them know that you would like to get involved. Once you are on their radar you can help keep others informed on how to get involved by making a conscience effort to promote the organization through your social media outlets.
Use your influence – Share the impact that you are making with your friends. Remember, some may want to support the same cause as you, while others will simply take notice at the fact that you are making a difference and want to do the same. Either way, try to remember that the main goal is to motivate others to take action for their passions. Use your knowledge to help cultivate advocates for positive chance.