All in the Family
Philanthropy is, of course, not all about financial support. Volunteerism is a critical element for family philanthropy initiatives. Organizations with opportunities for full-family volunteering, such as animal shelters and food banks, truly can engage parents and children by allowing them to spend time together helping those in need.
Research conducted by the Daniel Yankelovich Group has deepened our understanding of what today’s — and tomorrow’s — volunteers are looking for in the organizations with which they become involved. They want to believe their volunteer time is spent meaningfully and is a reflection of their own personal values and ethics. Further, DYG reports volunteers increasingly say they want to be regarded for “who they are,” not just for “what they have.”
This is particularly true for Gen Xers. A 2001 United Way study found that these younger supporters are more likely to choose volunteer activities that challenge them, rely on their professional skills, and provide opportunities to connect with peers. America’s younger generations, in particular, represent a significant opportunity for those organizations that can successfully engage them and their children as volunteers, garnering their buy-in and, thus, their lifelong support.
The Independent Sector’s report, “Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service” (November 2002), found that the practice of volunteering begins, many times, in early, formative years. In fact, two-thirds of adult volunteers surveyed began giving their time as children. In addition, young volunteers are more likely to contribute to charities when they get older, meaning organizations establishing relationships with youths and cultivating those relationships into adulthood stand to substantially benefit from the future generosity of these valuable constituents.
Bill Richardson, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has said, “We regard philanthropy as a habit of the heart that should be learned early and practiced often.”
Organizations can strengthen relationships with today’s parents by providing them with valuable tools for helping to raise the next generations. Like my son, many children are learning to give their time and money wisely, growing each day into the supporters we will all rely on tomorrow.