How to Encourage Gen Xers and Millennials to Be Philanthropic

A millennial with a smartphone. Read about some ways to encourage Gen X and millennial charitable giving.

Photo: Shutterstock

Baby boomers are starting to move out of the forefront of charitable giving, leaving Gen X and millennials to lead the way in philanthropy. But how do you convince them to use their philanthropic dollars to benefit your organization?

First, understand that some actually do have the capability and desire to give. Gen X and millennials have often been lambasted as self-obsessed generations who don’t care about charitable giving, but if you actually talk to them, you’ll find this is no more true for them than it is for any other generation.

In addition, studies show that as people reach their 30s and 40s, they start not only having the financial resources to give but thinking about the legacy they want to leave as well, so this is a good time to reach out to them.

Look to women. According to a study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, women in almost every income bracket gave more than men.

Between careers and families, Gen Xers and millennials are still very busy people, so make it easy for them to support your organization. What does this look like? Perhaps a mobile app or a “give-by-text” campaign, or an easy-to-access online funding platform. If they have funds with your organization, give them efficient access to their fund statements through your website or a mobile portal.

Don’t just give them sob stories, tell them what you’re going to do about the problems on which you’re focusing your efforts and encourage them to give feedback. They want to know what you’re going to do to ensure that your work will be sustainable and have a long-term impact. Sharing what your strategy is and how you plan to include their voices will be a huge encouragement for them to step up.

Thank them. Gen Xers and millennials don’t need ticker tape parades and they don’t need to have their names shouted from the rooftops, but the thank-you note is even more important to them than it is to baby boomers or the generations before them. On the other hand, if they’re making a big donation and they don’t specifically say they want to be anonymous, you might want to offer a more public show of gratitude if you want to keep those dollars flowing in.

What other tips would you give organizations wanting to increase their presence with and donations from Gen Xers and millennials? Let me know in the comments.

How Community Foundations Can Help With Your Charitable Giving

If you have some money to give, consider working with your local community foundation to help your investment grow.

Photo: Shutterstock

Let’s say you have some money that you want to donate to nonprofits that are working in an area of interest to you. As you know from reading previous articles on this blog, it’s crucial to do your research so that you’re giving to organizations that are well-managed, legitimate, and sustainable. But maybe you don’t have the time or energy to do that research or to manage the accounting that goes along with making donations on your own.

One solution is to work with a community foundation.

A community foundation is a public charity that administers philanthropic dollars, researches nonprofits, and manages the investments that keep your fund at a level that will allow you to make donations to organizations you care about. It can work on a citywide, regional, or statewide level.

A community foundation pools your dollars with those of other donors to generate a large amount of money, which is then invested in the stock market. These investments are managed either by a committee of the Board of Directors or an independent firm. By pooling donors’ resources, the community foundation is able to make larger investments that generally yield higher results than you would get by working with the market on your own.

In return for its services, the community foundation charges a small administrative fee, typically around 1 to 2 percent of the fund’s balance per year. For this tiny amount, you get to do the fun part of the grantmaking and leave the “drudgery” to people who are trained in research, investment, accounting, and grant administration. You also get a charitable tax deduction for your gift because community foundations are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.

The most common type of fund held by community foundations is a donor-advised fund. A donor-advised fund typically works like this: You tell the community foundation you are interested in making a grant in a field of interest to you, and the community foundation’s staff tells you about effective and sustainable nonprofits working in that area. You can then choose the organization to which you would like to make your donation.

Through a donor-advised fund, you can make grants anonymously, which can be another benefit of working with community foundations.

You can also work with a community foundation to establish an endowment fund for your favorite nonprofit or make donations directly to community foundation initiatives that are working in areas of interest to you.

The best thing about working with a community foundation is that you don’t have to have huge amounts of money available to make a concrete difference in your area of interest.

For more information about community foundations, stories of their successes, and how they can help you maximize your philanthropic dollars, visit Community Foundation Atlas.

Have you worked with a community foundation to manage your charitable donations? Please share your stories and tips in the comments.

Are These Celebrities Really Endorsing Top-Quality Charities?

Celebrity endorsements mean a lot for marketing any organization. Companies will pay celebrities large amounts of money simply for their endorsement of a product. Though most fans have never met their favorite celebrities personally, many people hold these people’s opinions in high esteem.

This can be especially powerful with charities. Having a celebrity associated with them is a great marketing and advertising tool to get publicity and donations. Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that evaluates other nonprofit organizations, compiled a list of charities associated with celebrities and included their rating of these organizations based on accountability and transparency.

Michael J.Fox’s Foundation for Parkinson’s Research was rated 92/100. This charity is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.

The National Constitution Center was rated 87/100. This charity has been endorsed by the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dikembe Mutombo and Sandra Day O’Connor. The purpose of this organization is to increase public understanding of the US Constitution.

The Women’s Sports Foundation was rated 84/100. It has been endorsed by Laila Alo, Sheryl Crow, Mia Hamm, Holly Hunter and Billie Jean King. It strives to improve the lives of women through sports and physical activity.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation was rated 82/100. This foundation seeks to fund medical research to bring about tomorrow’s cures.

USA for UNHCR was rated 77/100. This organization has been actively endorsed by Angelina Jolie and works to bring about U.S. support for the UN Refugee Agency. Unfortunately, this organization scored poorly in Charity Navigator’s assessment of their financial forms and spending.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was rated a 75/100. This organization has been endorsed by a number of celebrities including Pink, Pamela Anderson, Alec Baldwin and Woody Harrelson. This organization scored poorly in the evaluation of its released financials. It also lacks independent voting board members, which reduced its accountability score as well.

With these ratings in mind, it makes sense to look beyond the celebrity endorsements and do your own research on a nonprofit before supporting it with your own donations. Charity Navigator has rated thousands of nonprofits, large and small, based on their financial information and other factors, so it serves as a good resource to begin your own investigations. For example, here are 10 consistently low-rated charities for your review.

States Stepping Up Nonprofit Monitoring and Regulation

Nonprofits’ tax-exempt status and their reliance on donations mean that they can, in some cases, be used to commit serious acts of fraud. While such cases are actually pretty rare, there has been a nationwide recommitment on the state level to nonprofit monitoring and investigation, especially in light of a few high-profile fraud cases.

Part of this is because the IRS, which is responsible for determining the tax-exempt status nonprofits, is overworked and understaffed. New duties brought up by the Affordable Care Act gave the agency more work to do, but Congress has given it less budget with which to do that work. As a result, the IRS has had a more difficult time monitoring nonprofits to make sure that they’re on the up and up.

But state regulators such as attorneys general have stepped up their game, realizing that they not only need to pick up the IRS’s slack, but also that keeping an eye on nonprofits is good for their own states.

Across the country, states have not only stepped up their own nonprofit monitoring, but they’re reaching across state lines to work with others. The goal isn’t to increase regulations on nonprofits across the board, but to actually decrease regulatory burdens on those nonprofits that follow the rules.

With states paying closer attention to nonprofits, those organizations will have all the more reason to make sure that they’re filing the correct paperwork when it needs to be filed. Being under greater scrutiny will also make it harder for existing nonprofits to get involved—accidentally or intentionally—with fraud and likely make it harder to start organizations solely to defraud donors. Increased monitoring also means more people to contact if nonprofits have questions about tax issues or the like.

Ultimately, what this means is that nonprofits of any size need to take compliance with state regulations as seriously as compliance with federal regulations. It will also be important to monitor state law developments that could affect them.

Amy Winehouse Foundation Opens Home for Women Recovering from Addiction

The Amy Winehouse Foundation is opening a sober living facility for young women recovering from addiction.

Amy’s House is designed to save young women from Amy Winehouse’s fate. Dutourdumonde Photography / Shutterstock.com

After singer Amy Winehouse died in 2011 of accidental alcohol poisoning, a foundation was established in her name to help prevent young people from misusing drugs and alcohol.

Now, five years later, the Amy Winehouse Foundation is opening Amy’s Place, a home in east London that will help young women who have gone through a treatment program learn to adapt to a life without relying on drugs or alcohol, in order to keep them from relapsing.

The home will support 16 women, ages 18 to 30, who will each go through a three-month-long intensive program and are allowed to stay there for up to two years.

Research has shown that women have a greater chance of relapsing, and lack the same support networks that men have, but despite this there are few existing addiction centers in the UK that focus solely on women.

The goal with Amy’s Place is to provide these young women a safe space in which they can figure out how to live their lives again. Numerous women in gender-specific centers have expressed concern about moving to a mixed-gender location due to previous problems with codependence and abuse.

Amy’s Place, opening August 22, 2016, is being run with help from Centra Care and Support, which is a member of Circle Housing, one of the largest affordable housing providers in the UK. Through their combined effort, they’ll be bringing in women who are already clean and sober but who may be at risk of relapsing. The focus is on the emotional well-being of these young women.

Getting off of addictive substances is only one part of the battle. Relapses are common occurrences, and many programs do little to assist people after they kick the habit, leaving them without the support and education they need to prevent that from happening.

Amy’s Place will provide just that support and education, and hopefully save its clients from Winehouse’s fate.

Charity Scams: Why Research is Important

Charity scams are a growing problem, and here's one story that shows it.

Choosing a charity requires research to ensure that you’re not involved in a charity scam. Photo: Shutterstock

When deciding to donate money to a charity, it is more complex than just choosing a charity that claims they support a cause. There are plenty of for-profit organizations marketing themselves as nonprofit organizations in hopes of getting well-meaning but unknowing people to donate money to their organization. A perfect example of this type of charity scam was the organization Boobies Rock!

Boobies Rock! and associated Say No 2 Cancer and The Se7ven Group were founded by Adam Shryock. He hired attractive young women to promote his cancer-fighting organizations in bars by selling t-shirts, beer koozies, and other promotional items. Shryock informed the models that 40 to 90 percent of the profits were going to fight cancer. It appears that the models did not know that the organization was a sham.

Shryock’s organization was shut down in 2013 after it was found that he was using this money to live in a multi-million dollar home, buy a BMW, and pay for dating and cleaning services. Boobies Rock! was shut down and Shryock was forced to pay money back as well as pay fines and do jail time.

 Shryock had a previous ban on engaging in work for charitable organizations. Moving on from Boobies Rock!, he chose to get involved in another false charity giving mattresses to refugees. In reality, the organization stole over $1 million worth of mattresses. His partners he opened this “charity” with claimed to be unaware of his previous involvements in charity scams.

The idea of donating money to a cancer charity or helping to provide mattresses to refugees appears to be an honorable and charitable idea. Unfortunately, choosing a charity involves the brain more than the heart. Make sure to research the charities you are considering and do a thorough check of their financials. Any nonprofit should be transparent and provide their financial statements on their website.

Crowdfunding Is More Complex Than You Might Think

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Crowdfunding is a huge, growing business, and one that can be very helpful to nonprofits. Crowdfunding websites generated about $34.4 billion in 2015, and that number is expected to hit between $90 and $96 billion by 2025. Following the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in June, organizations using crowdfunding sites raised millions within a week to help survivors and the families of victims.

Crowdfunding is a global business, with over 2,000 sites dedicated to the process on the Internet these days. Those sites meet a variety of different needs, from sites that are better for commercial needs, to those that are designed specifically with charitable goals in mind. Finding a crowdsourcing site that works well for your organization is an important part of making sure that a campaign will work out well.

There are other considerations as well though, and there are a lot of details that need to be worked out in order to make sure that a crowdfunding campaign works and is above board. Running such a campaign isn’t as simple as throwing up some copy about the cause and maybe offering some benefits to backers. There are a lot of considerations, from how best to advertise, at hat levels to offer rewards, and how to handle taxes. Many of these concerns are universal to a good crowdfunding campaign, but nonprofits can bring with them additional problem areas, like certification within different states. Taxes can be complicated for nonprofits in general, both for their own filing and for donors who wish to claim donations on their taxes. One tip that cannot be overstated is to make sure that you find out how crowdfunding will impact how you collect donations, including how much you might owe to the website, and how tax-deductibility works in this case. Makes sure that, once you have these things sorted out, you include that information in your campaign, so that potential donors know what they’re getting themselves into.

Charity Spotlight: St. Mary’s Food Bank

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Mary’s Food Bank was founded in 1967 by John van Hengel after he worked serving meals at St. Vincent DePaul. A mother told him that soup kitchens and dumpsters were the only way she could feed her children. He came up with this concept that those with extra food could “deposit” it, so that those needing food could “withdraw” it. With $3000 and an abandoned building, Van Hengel created a model that would be replicated all over the nation. St. Mary’s Food Bank in Arizona is currently one of the largest food banks in the US.

In Arizona, 1 in 3 children live in poverty with “456,760 children facing hunger on a daily basis. […] 2 million Arizonans are considered working poor, living at or below the Federal Poverty Guideline.” St. Mary’s has a variety of programs to try to distribute food to the largest number of people in need. There are countless opportunities for donations or for individuals and businesses to work with them.

  • Emergency Food Boxes: These boxes are delivered to those in need at no cost.
  • Community Kitchen and Catering: A life skills and food service training program where the student staff can be hired to cater for an event or party.
  • Child Nutrition Programs: The Kids Cafe and Backpack programs attempt to alleviate hunger in Arizona. 1 in 4 kids in Arizona will go to bed hungry.
  • Hungry Heroes: This program allows the organization to recognize and honor organizations going above-and-beyond to support their community through gifts of time, food, or money.
  • Mobile Pantry: This allows the food bank to provide emergency boxes to those who cannot come to the food bank to receive them.

To look into volunteer or donation options, see their website for details. Any gift, large or small, makes a difference.

Incomplete Data Means Insufficient Results

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Data is key to enacting workable policies that help people. Governments and non-profits alike need data in order to figure out who needs help, and what help they need. None of that should come as much of a surprise to people in the non-profit sector, but data is never perfect. We appreciate data and we might even reify it, but the fact remains that data is not objective because it has to be collected by subjective people. Even when data is gathered by computers, those computers were programmed by people, and people have blind spots.

Take, for example, women and girls. There is a huge gender gap in data collected globally. Especially as it concerns economic activity, many women are simply ignored in census data and the like. Remember back in the 70s and 80s, when women were “joining” the workforce, and everybody thought that was new? It wasn’t. Women have always been working, but the men designing censuses or academic studies were ignoring them, because they weren’t thinking about the working class, or they didn’t consider housework to be “real work,” or think about things like second jobs.

The real world is, and always has been, far more complicated than most people assume. People in the non-profit sector know that, at some level, but data collection can still miss things. This is why there needs to be a more concentrated effort to collect data on, and subsequently understand, the issues faced by women and girls around the world. There are programs in place to do exactly that, but what we need is change, a shift in the paradigm, whatever cliché you want to use. We need to get to a point where we don’t have to think “what about women?” because we’re already investigating their issues and concerns as well.

Donation Drive Rakes In 21,000 Pounds of Goods

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Each year the University of Virginia’s Office of Sustainability holds what they call Chuck It For Charity. The event gives students the opportunity to donate unwanted goods they might otherwise throw away, which are collected and sorted. Partnered local charities are then given the opportunity to come by and select whatever goods from the collection that they want, for free.

This year, students donated around 21,000 pounds of goods, which is down from last year’s 23,556 pounds, but is actually an increase in the amount of goods donated. The difference comes because another campus event, the IT department’s e-cycling drive, didn’t fall during Chuck It, but was held during Earth Week. That means there were less personal electronics donated by students this year, which can impact the overall weight of the items. Had the two events coincided again, chances are there would have been a donation increase across all measurements.

Still, fiddly math aside, that’s quite a lot of donations, which goes to show that college students are more than willing to donate, when they think they can afford to or have something worth giving away. Other universities, as well as primary and secondary schools, could stand to learn from the University of Virginia’s model. Donation drives like this can appeal to people who want to help, but don’t have a lot to give. Donating clothes you no longer wear or dishes you don’t need is more manageable than donating money when you’re living week to week on paychecks or scholarships or money from home. And getting rid of the clutter can certainly feel refreshing, giving donors an additional sense of well-being: they’re helping themselves and others at the same time.

In addition, drives like this can bring out the charitable nature in all kinds of people, helping them to realize how much good they can do in the world regardless of their own position.

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