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Guiding the next generation of philanthropists

By Brendan Surma, Business Development Manager, AEC Group

Each year, United Way of Southwestern PA hosts its annual Build-A-Bike event, where local corporate volunteers join their colleagues and friends to build bikes for local youth in need. I had the pleasure of taking part in this event last year with my fellow Emerging Leaders Tocqueville Committee members, and it was an incredibly memorable and humbling experience. As we presented the bike we built to its ecstatic new owner, our team realized that our young friend was about to receive his very first bike.

The thought has always stayed with me that in just one afternoon of volunteering, we made a lasting impact on this child’s life.

Since I started volunteering with United Way, I’ve become much more aware of the great needs seen and unseen throughout our community, and through my involvement with the Tocqueville Society, I have witnessed first-hand the impact we can have on the lives of our neighbors. I have learned that the dollars we give to United Way are strategically placed to help the most vulnerable populations and affect the positive change we wish to see in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

This year, as a society, we have seen huge growth and change. Together, nearly 500 members raised more than $9 million to help enrich the lives of people in our community. As we move forward into the 2016 campaign, it is time to focus on our next generation of givers. United Way’s Next Generation Committee grew exponentially last year as more and more driven young people stepped up to make a difference in their community.

It is our job as leaders to ensure that motivation and excitement does not fade amongst our successors. This year, we need to work together to mentor our next generation of philanthropists. To start, young people are more likely to engage and support an organization if they are:

  • Taking part in a specific cause. Young professionals typically want to support specific projects or causes, not just give their time or money aimlessly. Research shows they gravitate toward supporting projects focused on education, children and youth and helping financially struggling families. By outlining clearly how their help or dollars will make a real difference, we can inspire our young givers.
  • Learning about different ways to give on a budget. Young people may not see the value in offering a one-time donation. They do however see value in step up programs. Communicating this information to them can be a successful strategy in gaining their continued support.
  • Having a seat at the table. The next generation of givers want to share their opinion. They want to be asked thoughtful questions and see their ideas put to the test. Welcoming this group to collaborate on pressing issues and events will inspire them to continue thinking of new ways to better the organization.

As Tocqueville Society members, it is our job to connect young philanthropists to the opportunities ahead of them. By helping our next generation of givers see the impact they can make by continuing to grow their support of United Way, we can strengthen the future of our community for decades to come.

By using these three methods of engagement as a starting point, I hope to inspire you all to think creatively about new and different ways we can mentor United Way’s young philanthropists to continue growing their support and assisting our community members in need.

Let’s work together to make an even bigger impact in 2016—on our community and our fellow donors.