Generational Philanthropy: It’s all in the family

I had an opportunity to speak with two Gen Xers about their philanthropy and how their parents influence them and how they plan to influence their children about donating their time, talent and treasure.

“I don’t yet have a lot of treasure, but I can give time, and on a good day, talent.”

Adam Svet works for his family’s business, the Eastridge Group, as the Director of Strategic Planning and Chief Administrative Officer. Outside of the office, he spends time with The Scripps Research Institute, New Leaders Council, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and SDSU’s Entrepreneurial Management Center.

Both of his parents are refugees who came from extremely modest backgrounds and were fortunate to realize the American Dream through great success in their business. Adam’s interest in philanthropy was generated, in part, by his parents’ story. “My mother and father made it a point to never let my brother and I lose sight of the world they came from. They believed in teaching us modesty and humility. Growing up with that kind of household ethos made it much easier to value community and philanthropy.” Over the years, he has developed an understanding of why he and others give to charities as well as an understanding of the challenges and values of the nonprofits. Ultimately, Adam hopes that by giving his time, treasure, and talent, he will obtain what he wants: a more just and equitable society.

When I asked Adam if he will teach his children about philanthropy and engage them in giving their time and treasure to nonprofits, he responded with a definitive “no”. Instead, he hopes to teach his children to think about things carefully and come up with conclusions on their own. He would desire for them to naturally gravitate towards giving to nonprofits by teaching them empathy, which will hopefully lead to philanthropy.

I also spoke with another philanthropist who wishes to keep her name confidential but was willing to share her story of philanthropy.

Growing up, I definitely learned about giving, but it was more about giving to families that didn’t have much: hand me down clothes, food drives, babysitting etc. My parents were constantly helping others, whether it was a place to stay or giving them a job. To this day, our family still has those values and hasn’t lost sight of helping others. For me personally, I loved animals and brought home all sorts of injured animals to nurse them back to health. I think compassion has a lot to do with philanthropy. If you don’t have the compassion to help others, then giving doesn’t come naturally. There are some people I believe that give because they believe they have to, socially, like it’s the right thing to do.

For my children, I encouraged participation in events at a very young age. We do it as a family and the kids look forward to it. It does have its rewards. My son, who is 17, volunteers his time for the school and helps with fundraising events. He knows firsthand how important it is to give back, and at 17 he does. So, there is definitely generational philanthropy…. Although I’ve never heard of that term until now. Our daughter has compassion for animals and helping those who are injured or sick. She surprised me at an event last month (true story). We attended a dinner honoring Magic Johnson for the Toberman Neighborhood Center (San Pedro). Magic was very inspirational and encouraged people to give in the envelopes that were on the table at each seat. My daughter said to me, “I want to give them a $100”. So, I wrote a check (included my own donation) and she gave me $100 from what she had been saving to take a trip to visit her friend in Hawaii. I was a very proud parent, as I realized she thought to help others before her own wants (not needs, but wants).

I’m not sure if its nature vs. nurture when it comes to giving back but that would be an interesting study (if it hasn’t already been done). I never really thought much about it, but now you’ve made me happy to think back and realize my kids are doing what I hoped. Not to be selfish and give to those in need.

I hope these two stories from local philanthropists help you, as a fundraiser, better understand the reasons that individuals give and why giving is “all in the family”.

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