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Millennials get it and give what they have

Philanthropy is a hands-on activity that involves more than writing a check.

That’s the way many millennials see it. This generation grew up on instant access; pair social consciousness with technology and philanthropic magic happens. An influx of online resources is influencing social awareness and easing donation and volunteer processes.

The result is a more democratic, inclusive philanthropic age. With a backdrop of Rochester generosity, local millennials are primed to participate.

Sarah Hannon, member services manager at the Tennis Club of Rochester and co-chair of Rochester Young Professionals’ sports division, is in charge of this year’s RYP gala Feb. 19. Hannon is arranging the event in a way that allows young professionals to make a difference with their ticket purchase.

“Young professionals cannot always afford to attend many charitable events because of the high cost to attend,” says Hannon, a 24-year-old graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Hannon’s goal is to cover gala costs through sponsorships and business partnerships so that every $35 ticket sale goes directly to the charity of choice. This year RYP selected Biz Kid$, a business and entrepreneurship program for city youth. The RYP gala has benefited a different local non-profit in each of the three years it has been held.

“I look at my decision to continue the gala as an opportunity to do more for Rochester,” Hannon says. “RYP has nearly 6,000 members who seek to be more involved with Rochester. This is the chance to let our members do more than write a check to an organization. Seeing how your dollars will be used makes the donation more valuable.”

Like Hannon, many millennials give their time even if they cannot give large donations. Time is a needed commodity. The Corporation for National and Community Service, which tracks trends in giving, reports 15.7 million millennials, or 21.7 percent, volunteered in 2014. They contributed 1.6 billion hours of service to raise funds, distribute food and clothing, tutor, mentor youth and help out in other ways.

The volunteering division of RYP receives requests on a daily basis from non-profits asking for volunteer support. At two to three events per month, the division holds the most RYP gatherings. Community development and social divisions of RYP also support volunteer efforts. 

Steve Vogt, social co-chairman and former RYP president, says that the organization’s mission is to introduce young adults to the city’s attributes, and helping non-profits is part of that.

“Many young people may not have the capital to make large fiscal donations at this point in their life, so RYP supplants this by offering young people opportunities to volunteer their time and ideas,” says Vogt, who has been a member since 2003. He estimates that nearly half of the members support the community in some way.

Vogt points out that Rochester is full of other young professional groups that are engaged with philanthropy. It has, by far, the most YP volunteer groups of any city outside of the Big Apple. Indeed, a quick look at the Roc City Coalition website is evidence enough.

NextGen Rochester, part of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, is one of those organizations. Professionals in their 20s to mid-40s form a giving circle to raise money for charitable causes. Each member contributes from $100 to $1,200 a year to a collective fund. In the fall, organizations are invited to apply for a grant and give a presentation, and members vote to decide which to fund. 

Saul Maneiro, advisory committee member and a co-founder of the group, says the organization has given more than $70,000 to 30-plus non-profits. In addition to money, nearly all of NextGen Rochester’s 50 members volunteer outside of the group.

“NextGen members are very active volunteers in the community, and that’s in addition to the handful of service projects we directly run each year,” says Maneiro, program officer at RACF.  “At this stage in life or career, our members are not necessarily financially well off but understand that their time has real value and want to contribute.”

And time is money.

Until millennials are able to donate Zuckerberg-like shares of their forthcoming billionaire businesses, non-profits will continue to benefit from their socially conscious commitments. And thanks to today’s technology, volunteering for an event, engaging in a non-profit’s cause and donating dollars are just a click away.

Haverly Erskine is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

1/22/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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