The Next Generation of Givers

I was shoe shopping with my 7-year-old daughter this weekend. She was flitting around Nordstrom like a butterfly ... trying to decide between dainty ballet flats or waterproof sandals. Then her eye caught a small sign. Just learning to read, she awkwardly sounded out the words ... "when you purchase Tom's shoes, we'll give another pair to a child in need."

She looked at me puzzled, almost like she didn't believe it (kids are naturally skeptical of advertising, even in first grade). I confirmed the sign impatiently, "yes, when you buy these shoes, they'll give another pair to a kid who needs shoes," I told her. (Truthfully, the shoes aren't her usual style, so I thought she might just be buying a little more time with the shoe shopping experience).

"Okay, that's what I want," she said with great certainty. It was as if every other option had instantly vanished. She picked up the plain-Jane shoe -- not even in her size I might add -- and bounded to the register. (I guess she forgot you actually need two shoes!)

To her, the decision was clear ... an obvious win-win: she gets shoes, some other kid gets shoes, too.

I don't think Angela is alone ... research suggests that young people of this era are strong givers. Many have grown up plugged into world events and the plight of others to a much greater degree. (I wish I could totally take credit for her selflessness, but alas I do believe it's largely generational).

But before fundraisers breathe a heavy a sigh of relief, it's important to remember something else.

Youngsters not only want to give, but want to be part of that gift every step of the way. At my daughter's birthday, she elected to ask for charitable donations. When I asked if she wanted to donate to UNICEF (where we would mail her check) or Animal Haven (where we could drop it off) -- both causes she cares about -- she opted for Animal Haven.

Unlike many donors of earlier generations, today's young givers value giving experience over efficiency and proven performance over longevity. In the marketing and fundraising course I recently taught at Rockhurst University, that sentiment was widely expressed. Good enough will simply not be good enough. They want more and expect more. Our challenge will be to deliver it ...