I recently read an incredible article by Tauna Shoemaker, a young, non-profit professional from Tacoma Washington.
Her article, entitled “When I Grow Up I Want to be a Philanthropist,” warmed my heart and encouraged me for the future of our sector. Tauna’s understanding of what a philanthropist truly is, and her even deeper commitment to sharing how her giving is impacting her organization, as well as her young daughter, serves as a challenge to all of us.
In developing prospects for our campaigns, we start at the top of the pyramid and focus our time and energy there. However, as we develop our plans, we should also pay close attention to the young professionals around us and give them a voice for the cause to share with their peers. The millennial donors may engage differently than their grandparents, but their passion to improve lives is no less valuable.
How can we engage the millennial professional in philanthropy?
- Find opportunities to let them present in staff and volunteer settings.
- Give them opportunities to write articles for campaign newsletters and/or create videos for our websites around development topics.
- Engage them in the critical practice of stewardship by sending personalized thank-you notes or making thank-you calls to donors.
- Look for opportunities to include them in your donor visits or tours of your programs/ministries in action. Donors get to hear stories from a new perspective and can draw on the enthusiasm of a young passionate member of the team.
Over the last few years I have heard young professionals say things like, “I was hired because the organization said they wanted to better understand my generation, but they continue to tell me that my ideas won’t work because things have always been done another way. There is so much resistance to change.”
Change isn’t easy for any of us, but let’s not stifle the rich creativity and energy of the millennial professional. There is much that all generations have to teach one another. We need to be willing to listen.