Unlocking Philanthropy For Young Professionals

By Lexi Peterson

The concept of young professionals’ engagement with philanthropy today is a hard one to fully grasp. It seems that every week there is a new study, theory, or article written about how Millennials, myself included, are choosing to spend our (oftentimes) meager paychecks and free time. One article might cite that our chief goal is to blow all our resources on experiences, while another claims we are an untapped resource, already giving away more than older generations give us credit for. Amid all of these conflicting reports, what is the truth?

Well, I won’t pretend to have the answer to a question with which many before me have wrestled. If that were the case, this would be a New York Times best-selling book instead of a blog post. However, I will provide a personal anecdote about my recent trip to the Dominican Republic and how it impacted the way I view philanthropy in the hopes that it encourages others as well.

This past April, I participated in Generosity Outreach’s first-ever Vision Trip, hosted in the Dominican Republic. Generosity Outreach hosts vision trips that “lead individuals down the path to discovering their true philanthropic passion.” When I agreed to go, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect other than having a general outline of our activities and the nonprofits we would be visiting. I knew that the main goal of the trip was to “unlock the joy of giving” in young professionals. But what does that look like?

Over the course of our time in the Dominican Republic, we visited five different nonprofits, and the days spent with the organizations were nothing short of amazing. Our first stop was a church supported by Compassion International. There, we sat in on educational classes for kids of all ages, seeing lessons about letters and numbers to more specialized vocational training sessions like sewing. We then spent a day at a club foot clinic run by Cure International, an organization that serves children with conditions like clubfoot, bowed legs, cleft lips, burns, and hydrocephalus. Next, we listened in on a loan meeting and visited businesses that are thriving due to the loans given to them by Esperanza International, a microfinance organization. And on the last day, we participated in a Healing Waters International Water Walk, where we learned what life would look like without a clean water source. We walked half a mile to find a natural water source, filled our buckets, and carry it back with us. Later that afternoon, we visited a farm supported by Plant with Purpose, an organization that works to transform the lives of rural poor through environmental restoration and economic impact.

Though I could go on and on about this trip, (I won’t—you’re welcome) I will say that seeing philanthropy in this way was incredible. This model of philanthropic involvement, unlocking the joy of giving by seeing for yourself where your dollars are going and what they are doing, is something I think more young people should get behind. It’s what my company, Excellence in Giving, has been doing with our clients for years. But it wasn’t until I saw it for myself that it finally clicked in my own life. Leaving your comfort zone, learning about giving and other cultures, and bonding with like-minded people, all while having a lot of fun? What a great way to do philanthropy!

The biggest lesson I took home is, Why wait? When you’re young, it’s so easy to put off the idea of giving until you’re older, citing a lack of money or of time to invest. But why do we convince ourselves of this? Giving doesn’t suddenly mean more if the number on the check has a few more zeros behind it. We continually strive to find what we’re passionate about in our careers and personal lives, so why don’t we channel that same drive into finding out what we’re passionate about in terms of giving? Discovering that is a cause for celebration at any age.