Should you teach philanthropy to your millennials?

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With the plethora of causes and charities that exist, philanthropy isn't always straightforward. But is it something that needs to be taught?

A new course designed to introduce young professionals to the joys of philanthropy has recently launched, but is philanthropy something that can be taught, or should people just get their hands dirty?

Cheryl Chapman, director at City Philanthropy, a City Bridge Trust-funded organisation set up to promote more effective philanthropy among early-career city professionals, argues that the approach should be “practical and hands on”, providing the basic knowledge and skills needed for people to get started.

But while people might think it’s easy, understanding how to pick a cause and a charity does require a certain amount of knowledge, Chapman maintains.

The new course, ‘Donorwise: Well-informed, strategic and engaged giving for City millennials’, is a half-day workshop that teaches how to choose a cause, how charities work, how to choose a charity and discusses how to approach investing and giving strategies to ensure they are effective.

Initially, the course aims to make young professionals aware of philanthropy and what it is, and Chapman explains that key to the definition is that philanthropy can involve all kinds of assets, including time and skills, rather than just money.

“The aim is to make them aware of how to achieve what they want to do, and it is not about money,” she explains. The people being targeted are ‘millennials’, defined in this case as those being born between 1981 and 1997. They are generally highly skilled and are often some of the best graduates in the country, but come to the City with a “social conscience”, Chapman says.

“They have an appetite to do something as part of their careers, as they are making their money, rather than after it,” she explains, adding there is often a desire to use core skills for good causes.

From an HR point of view, Chapman explains that there appears to be a link with leadership, and people who volunteer tend to outperform those who don’t in terms of career progression.

“It’s not clear whether this is because these people are ‘doers’, or because they learn skills and then do well, but it’s a good start.”

Deloitte partner and UK head of HR Stevan Rolls agrees. He says he considers philanthropy a “great opportunity for developing skills and building networks”.

As with the City Philanthropy course, Deloitte’s approach has been focused on the practical, and the company was a founding partner of BeyondMe, a charity set up by former Deloitte employee Adam Pike, which allows young professionals to form groups working on projects they choose, contributing money, skills and knowledge.

Deloitte currently has seven teams, Rolls explains, made up of seven Deloitte employees and a Deloitte partner. “The teams work with a diverse range of charities and social enterprises, for example, running workshops with a homeless charity and setting up mentoring projects with disadvantaged youths.”

Overall, Deloitte had more than 3,000 people involved in volunteering projects last year, contributing around 60,000 hours, Rolls says.

With the large appetite for involvement in philanthropy described by Chapman, her hope is that with the assistance on offer through the City Philanthropy course and organisations such as BeyondMe, more companies will support their employees in getting involved.

In theory, putting more structure around philanthropy should make it more valuable for all parties, ensuring CSR becomes less a ‘nice to do’ and more about the strategic giving of skills as well as cash.

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