The New Rules of Philanthropy

When I hear the word philanthropy, I think of a black tie affair teeming with wealthy white-haired couples. The charity ball scene from Dumb and Dumber comes to mind. Lloyd and Harry step down from a horse drawn carriage at the entrance of  “The Aspen Preservation Society’s Snow Owl Benefit” dressed in neon orange and baby blue tuxedos. Lloyd proudly tips the driver boasting, “Here ya go”. They enter the charity ball fencing with their canes as a disgruntled elderly couple ahead of them looks behind, utterly terrified. Lloyd and Harry’s unrefined behavior continues as they lean against the bar, “putting out the vibe”, vying for the attention of Mary Swanson. These immature antics are contrasted with the boujee atmosphere, making a hilarious and painfully awkward scene to watch!

In reality, the fictitious charity ball in Aspen, Colorado is a far cry from the evolving world of philanthropy today. Philanthropy is not limited to high-net-worth households. It takes the shape of volunteering, raising awareness, grant writing and, yes, monetary donations both big and small. There is a powerful movement of millennials giving collaboratively. I am one of them! I have participated in crowdfunding, gofundme, and monthly giving programs. My husband and I sponsor a child from the Philippines with Compassion International. My generation has strong convictions, a sense of empowerment and smartphones. With that, we are rewriting the rules of philanthropy.

1. Time, talents or treasure

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be a philanthropist. Charities, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations need your skills and talents just as much as your money. What are you good at? What free time do you have? There are many needs that can be met through volunteering. 60% of companies offer paid time off for employees to volunteer.People who volunteer report that they feel better emotionally, mentally and physically.

  1. Tap your finger.

91% of American adults own a smartphone. Technology, mobile banking, and social media are reshaping the way people engage with giving. Text-to-give and monthly auto-draft make donating money the quickest and easiest it’s ever been. 54% of donors worldwide prefer to give online with a credit or debit card.

  1. Transparency

41% of individuals say knowledge about the effectiveness of a nonprofit organization will change their giving. Through websites and email subscriptions, organizations are able to report data and share compelling stories about their effectiveness. The more “shareable” a cause is, the more donors it will attract.

Social media has become a powerful platform for people of all generations to provide monetary and social support for various causes. I am bombarded with requests to donate on Facebook daily. For example, 84% of Facebook users share posts that support their cause or bring awareness to important issues. Through this sharing, 18% of donors worldwide give through Facebook fundraising tools. Other social media giants play in the philanthropic game as well. Twitter users send 700% more visitors to donation pages on Giving Tuesday than on a typical day. Still, on those typical days, 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on Twitter end up taking some supportive action. Instagram provides a platform for approximately 30% of all nonprofits to raise money and seek support.

Banking technology has made a huge impact on the ease of giving.In fact, when enrolled in a monthly program, donors provide 42% more annually than their one-time donor counterparts. Text-to-give gained a lot of popularity during the Haiti Earthquake Relief program. Through text to give, the Red Cross was able to raise over $43 million. Crowdfunding has gained quite the momentum in recent years, and for good reason. Crowdfunding can appeal to large audiences and is driven by friend connections on Facebook, which is the reason for its’ success. Crowdfunding uses friends to invite more friends to contribute to a specific cause. This is especially important since the giving rate increases by 84% when friends ask their friends to give.As technology and transparency continue to grow, it will become more important than ever for charities and nonprofits to capitalize on ways to engage donors and share results.

While giving is certainly the biggest component in philanthropy, it is not the only one. At the heart of philanthropy is a sense of connection. People want to feel connected to others and empowered to solve a problem. Philanthropy is not defined by giving large amounts of cash, but rather, it is a mindset. The mindset drives us to be empathetic or to imagine ourselves in someone else’s circumstances. It requires us to carry each other’s burdens, certainly no easy task. While some may have the ability to give life-changing sums of money, others have the ability to raise keen awareness within their communities, if not globally, about important issues in society. Philanthropy starts in our hearts, requires solidarity and courage, and ends with change. What are some of your favorite causes or ways to give?

All statistics are from