Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Millenial Philanthropy - An Oxymoron or the Real Deal

Meet Rosetta Thurman.

In case you haven't read it yet, check out my March column in Fundraising Success, Millennial Philanthropy: An Oxymoron or the Real Deal it features an interview with Qui Diaz, keeper of the Alltop blog Evangelist and Director of Strategy for Livingston Communications.

As we all know, a great way to learn a new subject is to get it straight from the proverbial "horse's mouth" so I'm going to continue this conversation on the ins and outs of Millennial philanthropy by interviewing more Millennials! Next up, Rosetta Thurman, another Alltop blogger - Perspectives from the Pipeline - and Director of Development from the Nonprofit Roundtable. I hope you'll take a look.

Want to learn more about engaging the 75 million Gen Y'ers in your cause? Visit Social Citizens and read the paper or add your thoughts here. And stay tuned for more thoughts on Millennial Philanthropy from some of the most thoughtful, passionate and smart young people I know!



Me: Rosetta, do you see yourself as a donor or philanthropist? What do these terms mean to you?

Rosetta: I wouldn’t call myself either. To me, both words connote just giving dollars, while I also volunteer and advocate on behalf of nonprofits as well. I actually prefer the term “social entrepreneur” because it indicates that you do more than give money away, you actually work for social change instead of just throwing money at a problem. Social entrepreneurs donate their money, time, expertise, and voice to a cause that is bigger than just one organization.

Me: Why do you donate?

Rosetta: I was raised by a single mother and we depended on nonprofits to help us make ends meet. That experience called me to begin volunteering at nonprofits and make a career in this sector. So I may be predisposed to donating my money to nonprofits since I have worked in this field for almost seven years…in fundraising no less. I’ve always felt it important to contribute according to my values – whether I'm paying a $5 cover to get into a poetry reading, membership dues to the NAACP, or giving to the organizations where I volunteer and serve as a board member.

To be honest, 2007 was the first year I pulled out my credit card and checkbook to make what were, for me, significant donations to some of my favorite charities. It’s not that I’d been a stingy Scrooge all these years, but as a young professional it was really the first time that I’d earned enough money in my nonprofit job to consider giving a chunk of it to any cause other than my own survival.

Me: What causes are you drawn to and why?

Rosetta: Before I joined a nonprofit board, I went through a process where I thought about which causes I was passionate about outside of the organization where I work. In the Washington DC area, there are over 4,000 nonprofits. I came up with a short list of criteria that fit my personal mission. They include: 1) working in populations of high poverty and 2) serving communities of color. In terms of causes, there are so many I am committed to: homelessness, youth and education, the arts, advocacy, civil rights, and women’s issues. These causes mean the most to me because I have personal experiences with these issues.

Me: How do you make donations (via web, mobile, check, etc.)

Rosetta: I prefer making donations online, but if the charity doesn't have the capacity to accept online contributions, I will send a check.

Me: Are there any particular times of the year that you are more or less motivated to give?

Rosetta: I am always motivated to give and volunteer more at the end of the year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel so blessed with abundance surrounded by family, friends, a roof over my head that my heart hurts especially for those who have none of the things that I often take for granted.

However, this year I felt intense responsibility to my community on Inauguration Day as I listened to President Barack Obama’s speech on the Capitol. It was as if I was in a brand new America. An America where any individual can live their wildest dreams and where our collective action can make a positive difference.

Me: What 1 piece of advice would you give to a nonprofit that wants to attract more Millennial donors?

Rosetta: Please add a “donate now” button to your website! It is the preferred method for me and my peers to make financial transactions of all kinds. Give us a way to engage with your organization if we so desire – let us know about volunteer opportunities and openings on your board of directors. Don’t be afraid to ask us to get our friends involved – we love doing stuff with our friends! And don’t underestimate the power of our networks. We may not know older rich people, but Generation Y knows A LOT of people.

For example, I asked my friends via my blog, Twitter & Facebook to donate $26 in honor of my birthday last year and raised over $600 in a few days for 2 of my favorite charities. I personally did not have $600 to give, but collectively, I was able to raise it from my friends.


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