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Gen X & Gen Y philanthropists

LeaderVoice: Robyn Schein is working to change the stereotypes surrounding who is a philanthropist

by Robyn Schein

I believe that the stereotype of philanthropists being all white, bearded, older men, who sit around in a boardroom, needs to be changed ... and is changing.

In almost 90 percent of households, women are the sole decision maker or an equal partner in charitable choices, according to a recent study from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

In my role at The Minneapolis Foundation I am fortunate to work with young professionals who are interested in better understanding the needs of our community and developing their skills as philanthropists. Their motivations range from a desire to make a difference in the Twin Cities to wanting to be smarter with their charitable dollars. Yet, none would say it is because they want to be a "philanthropist."

The majority of young professionals I work with are highly educated, career-driven women in their late 20s to early 40s. They are applying their career skills-whether it be as accountants evaluating nonprofit budgets or as lawyers making a persuasive case for the organization that they love-to have an impact in the community.

Regardless of gender, I am seeing young people (Gen X and Gen Y) asking how they can receive the greatest return on their investment and willing to take a risk on a new organization with a clear sustainable model. This generation also craves experiences beyond writing a check. They act out their philanthropy by volunteering, serving on committees and providing input.

While the field and practice of philanthropy is evolving, we should remember that the term "philanthropy" finds its root in the "love of mankind." Regardless of economic status, race or gender, people carry out their love and spirit of generosity in a multitude of ways that make a difference in our community. However, I do believe that we need to alter the existing stereotype of philanthropist. We need to start by owning the title and creating a new image-a diverse boardroom with equity of gender, age and race.

Robyn Schein manages The Minneapolis Foundation's "Fourth Generation" program, an experiential program for the next generation of givers. www.fourthgenfund.org

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