Raising Philanthropists

Raising Philanthropists

September 14th, 2011

by Dan Schipp


When you work in development there are always a few gifts that stand out in your memory.  Often they are the large gifts that involved years of cultivation. 

Not in this case. 

One of the most memorable gifts that Saint Meinrad Archabbey received during my tenure as vice president for development came from a junior high school student. 

The gift of cash — $45 – was accompanied by a handwritten note from John, the young donor.  He explained that he had decided to contribute a tithe of his annual allowance to our $40 million campaign. 

John said his parents encouraged him and his siblings to give a portion of their allowance to charities of their choice.  Thanks to his parents, John was learning to be a philanthropist.

I was reminded of this experience earlier this summer when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How to Raise a Philanthropist” (June 20, 2011). 

In the article, Veronica Dagher notes that the great generational transfer of wealth has more and more affluent families taking an active approach to teaching their heirs about philanthropy. 

In addition to leading by example and demonstrating an attitude of gratitude, here are some other practices that she says parents are using to encourage their children to become volunteers and philanthropists:

  • Talking with their children about giving and volunteering
  • Matching gifts to their children’s charities
  • Volunteering with their children (at an animal shelter or soup kitchen, for example)
  • Conducting family meetings, often facilitated by an advisor, on individual and collective philanthropic goals
  • Asking children to research causes and to “pitch” them at meetings of the family’s foundation board.

Research is showing that the younger generations are philanthropically inclined.  JGA’s and Achieve’s 2011 Millennial Donors research revealed that 93% of the nearly 3000 millennials (ages 20 – 35) who participated in the survey made a gift in 2010.  Nearly eight out of ten volunteered. A nudge from a family member prompted 42% of the millennials to give.

It is encouraging to see that we as a society are becoming more intentional about teaching philanthropy and volunteerism to younger generations.  Families and churches still lead the way in teaching and encouraging giving, but there are more formal efforts underway. 

One remarkable example is the Learning to Give organization, which is working with generationOn to provide high quality K-12 lessons, units, and materials on philanthropy to schools throughout the world. 

With efforts like this, more and more organizations will be counting young philanthropists like John among their donors.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *