When I think about the title philanthropist, an image of a white-haired man in a sharp looking suit comes to mind (Rockefeller, Gates, Turner). To achieve the title of philanthropist, one has to be a genius business-savvy with a hint of luck kind-of-person that also has the heart of gold to give away the years of wealth that he/she has built for the greater good. Of course giving to charity also benefits the person’s status and the person’s business’ status, but essentially, it’s a win-win situation. It seems that millennials have figured out that philanthropy and businesses do not have to be exclusive of each other but they can work as a kind of partnership. The new faces of philanthropy will be those of today’s hipsters, neo-hippies, and other millennials who are not afraid to voice their philosophies online and open their wallets to altruistic projects.
The United Nations, which some youths and baby boomers have called an old and stale organization, is tapping into the ingenuity of tech-savvy millennials. Using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, individuals get to learn and converse with the various UN agencies and on-the-grounds personnel. Stories from Ebola-stricken countries are told at lightning speeds reaching all over the globe, which is encouraging individuals, businesses, and governments to aid in the containment of the virus. When people across the globe took to the streets to demonstrate their concern on climate change and Twitter exploded with #peoplesclimate, governmental bodies at the UN felt the need for change, that business cannot go on as usual. Those who are in the position to change policies are hearing the concerns of global citizens, even if they don’t want to admit it.
Millennials are “a new generation of young entrepreneurs, frustrated by broken systems, who are channeling their energy into creative enterprise through technology. In doing so, they are determined to carve out a new golden age of invention and social innovation” (Horansky). For example, during the 2014 Social Good Summit, 19-year-old Mercy Chepkoech Sigey demonstrated her easy to install and monitor motion sensor in her work to stop poaching of African wildlife.
The likes of Mark Zuckerberg, a young philanthropic genius, are rare today but may become common by 2030. This is because today’s youths want to do more than just earn a paycheck. They want to make a positive mark on the world. Young entrepreneurs are building “social good” into their business plans, investing in companies that can demonstrate a positive social impact. “Socially conscious, impact driven millennial investors will be drawn to alternative forms of finance, such as impact investing and online crowdfunding platforms. They prefer to buy sustainable brands, invest in companies that have social impact, and tap into the wisdom of the crowd to source new investment opportunities” (Foster).
Of course the momentum for social entrepreneurs and philanthropy will need to be continued over the next few decades in order for today’s millennials to shape the future of philanthropy into something that they want. Perhaps philanthropy will be more than just how much money a person can dump into a charity. Perhaps the new form of philanthropy will include the philanthropist in designing a sustainable income generator for the charity, transparency in tracking and reporting of donations and expenses, educational opportunities for members and other philanthropists. This is the time for millennials to get creative with their entrepreneurial side.
One of the many challenges in continuing the momentum for social change is the decline in youth volunteerism. According to the 2014 annual “Giving USA” report, there is a “decline in millennials volunteering their time. If the next generation doesn’t have the hands-on experience of seeing and serving, they are less likely to give. Causes need to start early and work to engage millennials, connecting them to volunteerism opportunities that will allow them to use their skills and see first-hand the impact of a cause’s mission” (Foster). Volunteerism is the heart of most non-profits. So it is imperative that non-profits reach out to youths and convince them how volunteerism benefits the individual, the community, and the world.
Do you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in volunteering? Connect with the United Nations Association of Atlanta on Facebook.