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Joanne Fritz

Is Your Nonprofit Connecting With Generation Z?

By April 11, 2011

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I didn't even hear her speak, but just hearing the story moved me.

My daughter, who is a fundraiser, attended her local Association of Fundraising Professionals meeting recently. She said that she and her fellow fundraisers were charmed by a 13-year-old girl's story about raising money for charity.

The girl is a part of a "youth in philanthropy" group at her school. The group sold salsa to raise funds for a good cause. Once the money was collected, the group sent RFPs out to several local charities, thinking that would be a good way to pick the recipient of their philanthropy. They ultimately gave $1000 to a charity that serves young children.

Why that charity? It was the only one that bothered to fill out the RFP.

First I was blown away by the spirit and wisdom of these kids, and then I was angry that some charities blew them off.

What did the charities that ignored the RFP miss? First and foremost, they missed a golden opportunity to connect with and win the hearts and minds of a new generation of philanthropists. Secondly, they missed the chance to share a heart-warming story with their other supporters by writing about how this group chose them for its donation. Can't you see that on the website, in the newsletter, maybe even in the local newspaper?

One of the most eloquent spokespersons for what she calls the "compassion boom" is Lee Fox, founder of KooDooZ, "a social network for kids who want to make a difference." In her personal blog, Lee writes:

"Youth is our country's largest population group -- reportedly 70 million strong. In fact, 1 out of every 4 Americans is under the age of 18. Over 13 million American teens volunteer an average of 3 hours per week, totaling over 2-billion hours of service per year....Frustratingly though, due to ageism, many of these young minds and able bodies are under-utilized in helping with the humanitarian challenges they care about the most. This is perhaps why we're seeing more and more pint-sized philanthropists founding their own philanthropic organizations in order to have impact."

At KooDooZ, they are particularly in tune with Generation Z, who are 12-13 years old at most at this point. They are called the "homelanders," referring to the most notable crises during their lifetimes--9/11, Katrina and a recession--and are shaping up to be some of the most passionate young people we've seen about doing good through volunteering and philanthropy.

I wonder how many charities are thinking about these young people and preparing to interact with them, cultivate them, and most importantly, listen to them.

Sadly, most are not. Otherwise those charities that received the RFPs from that group of young people, who trusted that if they raised money, many causes would be interested in receiving their donation, would have filled out that piece of paper and been honored to do so.

What is your organization doing to connect with Generation Z? Are you missing opportunities?

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Photo by Leland Bobbe/Getty Images

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Comments

April 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm
(1) Erick B says:

Kids are people and people like to help others. Providing platforms for kids to be of service seems like a no-brainer. Kudos to KooDooZ for offering kids the opportunity to help.

April 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm
(2) Katie Meyler says:

Youth are powerful. Maybe its because older people don’t expect enough from them. When a 12 year old stands up in a classroom and says, “I don’t know a lot about child labor, but I know it’s wrong and it needs to stop, who will help me stop it?” his voice shakes the earth. His parents, his community, his school are moved and they get behind him.

I’m not sure that we believe enough in our kids. I wonder how our world would change if we started listening to them more, started letting them make changes. Teaching them about big issues and getting their input. KooDooZ is a way we can find out. I was super excited to read this article. Thank you Lee Fox for showing us the way and give the “compassion boom” a real voice. Shame on any of us who ever blow them off.

April 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm
(3) Julie Chapman says:

Hi, We love the work of KooDooz – they truly know how to speak the social media language of youth.

Last week, our organization, YesKidzCan!, announced an Awards Program whereby we are presenting $100 awards to kids in grades 3-5 to take the passion they feel about a cause and channel it into a social entrepreneurial activity. Ideas can be as simple as a lemonade stand that donates earnings to a cause or as big as the kids’ imaginations takes them.
Applications are due 6/1.

Many kids already so social entrepreneurial activities. We believe that by more formally exposing kids to this innovative field at early ages, we will help them imagine more ways to solve problems and instill in them the belief that they can use the power of entrepreneurism to help shape their world.

We hope to inspire more parents, educators, community and faith leaders to open kids’ minds to new ways of solving problems.

April 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm
(4) Judy S. says:

There are many excellent models for Youth in Philanthropy programs. Our community foundation has been running programs for over 10 years. We run 6 programs each year with 15-20 students, educating over 100 kids,12-17yo. Each program grants $10,000. Nonprofits in our community happily submit applications for funding their youth development initiatives. They view the opportunity as a “double benefit application”; potentially receiving funding, and educating the next gen in our community on the important role of philanthropy. The kids rise to the occasion when asked to make what is often considered an adult decision. Our greatest challenge is getting more philanthropists and parents to fund these great programs!
Contrary to your example, I think there are many out there looking to inspire young philanthropists.

April 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm
(5) Scott Overpeck says:

The energy, passion and infectious charm of kids working for your cause cannot be underestimated. Plus who doesn’t love FREE labor (;

Great article. I hope organizations will take your words to heart.

April 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm
(6) Dan Portnoy says:

I hope every nonprofit factors in a multi-generational approach to their fundraising strategy, if they don’t – they’re missing out!

I didn’t realize that 1 in 4 americans are under 18 – staggering stat!!

April 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm
(7) Amy Neumann(@CharityIdeas) says:

It’s important to get kids involved early, and often! They’re natually compassionate and interested in others, as well as wise and insightful in ways grown-ups aren’t always. ;) Making it easy and fun to help is key to making sure their interest grows and blossoms. Great article, thanks for sharing!

April 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm
(8) Jim Ries says:

We agree. As the parent of two amazing elementary students who also care about making a difference, we know first had that what Joanne Fritz and Lee Fox are stating is true. The founders of One More Generation (OMG) as so passionate and they know how to connect with the Gen Z crowd. If you are not dialed in to what they are concerned about and helping them find their own ways to make a difference, you are definitely missing the boat.
One More Generation (OMG) founders Carter (age 10) and his sister Olivia (age 8.5) care so much about saving endangered species and for cleaning up our environment, they started their own nonprofit in order to make a difference and to educate as many kids (and adults) as possible.
Their most recent initiative was the launch of their “Say No To Plastic Bags” Coalition. After they returned from delivering the Animal Rescue Supplies they collected to help out with the oil spill in the Gulf, they started to realize that it was not enough to just fight to help save endangered species, they also needed to look at ways we could help clean up our environment.
We just partnered with the ISFoundation (Ian Somerhalder, you may all know him from his role in Lost, or more recently, his role as Damon Salvatore in the CW Hit Vampire Diaries) as well as these companies:
GA Tech Surf Club
Atlanta Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation
GreenPlate Atlanta
Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church Environmental Committee, Atlanta
Center for Biological Diversity
Chico Bags and the Bag Monster
Orange Halo Atlanta
ConservingNow
Cochran Mill Nature Center
ISFoundation
LiveThrive / GreenPages.com
Georgia Tech Living Green Program
Gorilla Sacks
Ocean Revolution / LiveBlue
US Green Building Council Georgia Chapter
Hope-2-O
Cool People Care
Sierra Club / GreenHome
Thanks again and remember to listen to your kids next time they tell you they can change the world… because they are probably right ;-)

April 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm
(9) nonprofit says:

I am blown away at all the great comments this blog post has received. I’m so pleased to know about so many terrific organizations and ways young people are contributing. Keep up all the great work!

April 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm
(10) Cindy says:

Nice article. Thanks for sharing. Thanks to KooDooz for raising awareness in children about the value of volunteering to make a difference now and in the future.

April 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm
(11) Geri Stengel says:

You are absolutely right: We do need to encourage young people to regard giving (time/money/advocacy) as a part of their civic duty. Its rewarding for them and society needs a continuing infusion of people who care. Whatever the cause, people of all ages need to be welcomed. They all have skills and ideas that can leverage the message.

April 13, 2011 at 10:40 am
(12) Kristin says:

I agree with you 100%! A girl scout contacted my non-profit about a project she was working on. She wanted to provide reusable bags to clients because she was worried about the environmental impact of plastic bags but knew that low-income clients may not be able to afford to buy them. Furthermore, low-income clients would get discounts for using these bags. She contacted numerous charities but ours was the only one that responded (and responded positively)! It was such a great experience for everyone involved. :)

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