May 27, 2014
When I was a little girl my Aunt Margaret always gave the lamest Christmas gift. My siblings and I all knew what to expect but my mother threatened us within an inch of our lives to be gracious and grateful… at least in public. So on Christmas morning we opened our gifts and always found an envelope with a $20 bill in it with explicit instructions: Give this to your favorite charity.
More than 30 years later I have found myself profoundly impacted by those $20 gifts. I believe that philanthropy is better than any drug or vice of choice. And that is why I have spent my career in fundraising.
I have noticed an alarming trend over the years. Young people don't hold philanthropy in high regard. They have less income due to the challenging job market and the massive impact of student loans. When asked, most young folk respond with "I just don't have the money." Yet they post pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of fun nights out, beach vacations and more. Their values are different from mine and my fellow Generation Xers.
Last weekend I participated in Walk A Mile in Her Shoes®. I saw hundreds of young professionals come out to Railroad Park to support domestic violence services at the YWCA. They strapped on high heels and walked in solidarity against those that abuse their loved ones. It was an extraordinary day. But more importantly it reminded me that this generation of millennials expects more from me as a fundraiser. To them it was more than writing a check. They chose to participate in the life of an organization I am passionate about.
To the millennials in the audience, I have failed you as a fundraiser. I know that now. But I challenge you to find your passion and support it. My friend and mentor, General Charles Krulak, President of Birmingham-Southern College, always says "you can pretend to care but you can't pretend to be there." Be there for the causes that feed that inner passion. Support them with your time, your talent and your treasure. We need you.
You follow in the footsteps of philanthropists who have given generously to your colleges, your place of worship and to the other causes you believe in. It is your turn. Find your passion. Support it. And lay the ground work for future generations to keep nonprofit organizations that help others as a priority.
Yes, your $20 gift matters. It might change your life. It changed mine.
Thank you, Aunt Margaret!
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