“Children are our elders in universe time. They are born in a world more evolved than we can imagine, and we can only glimpse it through their eyes.” — Buckminster Fuller
Some of the distinctions I have been noticing next generation philanthropists bringing into their giving include:
Action — Young philanthropists are less inclined to sit on the sidelines or accept the status quo, and often have an eagerness to dive in with boldness. Sometimes impatient and impulsive, many young people bring fresh ideas and eagerness to manifest them.
Diversity — Having grown up in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural world, young donors have more awareness of the links between the diverse sectors and issues, and of the important perspectives that diverse stakeholders bring to any genuine understanding of the whole. New alliances are being forged, such as between indigenous activists and environmentalists, or between social peace activists and human rights organizers, and an increasing number of social change organizations are valuing leadership by women people of color. Young donors help to fuel some of this evolution.
Authentic Partnership – Volunteerism in general is on a record high, and young people are leading the way. Many young donors put not just money but also time into their visions. In the process, they build real relationships, often across lines like race, class, and even political perspective. This is one of the ways in which deeper, even transformative, learning can occur.
Multiple Dimensions of Change — Many young donors are heeding Gandhi’s call to “be the change we wish to see in the world”, as they look not only at their external goals and objectives for strategic social impact, but also at personal, emotional and spiritual development as fundamental components of social change work.
Willingness to Take Risks — One foundation with strong next generation leadership has adopted a policy of commitment to a “25% failure rate.” That is, they are committed to evaluating projects and finding that at least 25% did not work out or generate the intended results. This commitment encourages them to fund more risky and bold initiatives. They reference that Babe Ruth had a major league record for strikeouts, and that Albert Einstein had more bad ideas that most of us could ever imagine. Innovation depends on risk.
Ocean Robbins is founder of Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!), and has spoken in person to 200,000 people and facilitated hundreds of gatherings for leaders from 65+ nations. Ocean is author of The Power of Partnership and Choices for Our Future, and he is a mentor and support to families leveraging their privilege. Learn more at orobbins.wpengine.com.