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Five Ways to Tap in to Your Philanthropic Super Powers

A Practical Guide to Philanthropy for the Next Generation of Change-makers

People generally make significant philanthropic strides late in their lives or careers. Recently, however, the paradigm has shifted, and there is a growing trend among benefactors to see the impact of their gifts during their lifetime and to share the charitable process with their children.

As a member of the next generation of major philanthropists, you are endowed with more philanthropic influence than any previous generation.1 This power is born of necessity, given the systemic changes required to address the challenges associated with dwindling natural resources, climate change and the burgeoning world population. This power is also fortified by opportunity, as increasing globalization and advancements in technology enable us to connect and create scalable, sustainable solutions that have a global impact.

Engaging in meaningful philanthropy is a venture that has the power to transform lives—not just the lives of those you help, but your own, as well. How do you begin this journey?

Whether you’re carrying the torch of your family’s philanthropic mission or forging your own charitable road, this practical guide offers five tips for tapping in to your inner philanthropic super powers to find innovative, exciting and inspirational ways to make the world a better, more interesting place.


1. Find and Act on Your Passion

Philanthropy that results in meaningful, measurable impact begins with a clear, focused strategy for giving. To achieve clarity and focus in your philanthropy, think through the many factors and facets of your life that influence why, where and how you want to give. These may include people who are important to you, pivotal life moments, schools you have attended, institutions that have shaped your thinking and the role of spirituality. It may even include books you have read, stories you have heard or trips you have taken that inspired you to want to create positive change in the world. Taking the time to define what you feel passionate about will make it easier for you to articulate—and act upon—your philanthropic vision and mission:

Your vision: A statement of your philanthropic purpose and objectives.
Example: A world where every child has the opportunity for higher education.

Your mission: A description of how you intend to fulfill that purpose.
Example: My mission is to serve my local community by improving access to education for disadvantaged children. I will mentor students in my local high school and assist them with their college and financial aid applications.

When you connect you're giving to issues and values that are near and dear to you, philanthropy becomes more than a gesture or transaction. It becomes an expression and extension of who you are and the mark you want to leave on the world. Having a documented vision and mission also gives you a clear frame of reference when evaluating the myriad worthy causes you will encounter on your lifelong philanthropic journey.

2. Give Back Beyond the Check

Your philanthropic superpowers extend far beyond your dollars to include your time, talent, wisdom and networks. Rather than just bankrolling possible solutions, members of the next generation of change-makers care about social change and are willing to learn all they can about the issues important to them so they can employ their resources, connections and knowledge more effectively. In fact, the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, conducted by the Case Foundation and Achieve, a research organization focused on non-profits, found that millennials prefer to use their personal skills when giving to charity and are more likely to volunteer if they can use their expertise to benefit the cause.The fringe benefit of giving non-monetary assets is that being directly involved in a cause creates a different kind of human connection than writing a check. That human connection is why, according to a study by Country Financial, passion is the top reason adults aged 18 to 34 choose to support a charitable cause.2

To discover how you can give more than just money, take an inventory of what inspires you, what talents you can offer and how much time you can commit to giving. Donations of time are essential, as most non-profit organizations rely on volunteer power to achieve their missions, and many of them are understaffed. Taking a hands-on approach to practicing philanthropy through volunteerism allows you to immerse yourself in an organization, feel connected to its purpose and be able to see the immediate impact of your efforts.

If one of your priorities is to make giving a family affair, investigate such faith-based or other non-profit institutions as Habitat for Humanity or Feeding America. These organizations offer opportunities for families to spend quality time together performing volunteer work that is meaningful to all family members involved.

3. Connect with Your Peers

Are you driven by the sense that anything is possible? Do you believe that giving back is not just an opportunity, but an obligation? Chances are, many of your peers are similarly motivated. Connecting with like-minded individuals is a powerful way to generate new ideas and collaborations that augment and amplify your impact. For example, UNICEF’s Next Generation comprises a diverse group of young professionals, ranging in age from 21 to 40, who commit their resources, resolve and enthusiasm to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work. Since 2009, UNICEF Next Generation has raised over $5 million and supported 11 UNICEF projects around the world.3

A spirit of collaboration and continuous learning is paramount for creating lasting change. Networking with the right people, leveraging their specialties and learning as much as you can from them increases your chances of success. An introduction is often the first step to turning an innovative idea into a scalable solution. Organizations like Tiger 21, Exponent Philanthropy and Philanthropy Roundtable offer programs to facilitate collaboration among young philanthropists and educate them on opportunities to make their giving more effective. Morgan Stanley also hosts events, like our recent evening with Cancer Schmancer visionary and founder Fran Drescher, that help you make lasting connections with the philanthropic visionaries who are setting the pace for meaningful and strategic giving.

4. Join a Junior Board

Family foundations and non-profit organizations may seek to capitalize on the time, talent and networks of the next generation through the creation of junior boards. In addition to representing a natural opportunity to identify, leverage and cultivate future leadership, junior boards are often an integral part of an organization’s succession plan.They also provide a medium for collaborative thinking between generations, bringing the passion, energy and innovation needed to expand an organization’s reach and increase its impact. While junior boards support an organization’s leadership to carry their mission forward, they generally do not have governing power.

Serving on a junior board for your family foundation or a non-profit organization may provide an opportunity for you to put your theories into practice. Becoming a junior board member also provides a unique opportunity for both professional and personal development.

As a junior board member, you will get hands-on experience in helping an organization pursue its short-and-long-term goals. Through the process, you can get exposure to all of the operational machinery that makes the organization sustainable, from board governance, strategy and budgeting to fundraising, project management and administration. Participating in a junior board also opens the door for you to meet more established professionals and like-minded peers who share your passion. You can leverage this exposure to seek mentorship, support, access to new networks or even just general advice on life and career choices. As you become more involved with the organization, you may begin to recognize synergistic relationships among your resources and the people you know and how they might work together to advance your cause.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Mastering the art of meaningful philanthropy requires practice and patience. It takes time to craft a philanthropic identity, whether you are defining a philanthropic vision of your own or finding your place in your family’s philanthropic mission. With so many ways to structure philanthropic giving, including individual donations, family foundations and donor-advised funds, determining where and how to give—and over what time frame—is a process that requires research and rigorous due diligence. When considering a giving opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask questions that help you truly understand the issue at hand, the need and the way funds will be used.

As your philanthropic strategy matures, you will learn how to ensure that your giving is always guided by a consistent set of values and aligned with your overall philanthropic goals and expectations. But don’t be afraid of missteps—the mistakes you make along the way will strengthen your philanthropic efforts just as much as your successes.

As your philanthropic super powers grow, you will be bombarded by a multitude of worthy causes competing for your generosity, and it can be challenging to maintain your focus. Referring back to your philanthropic vision and mission enables you to say yes or no in an empowered way. The most effective way to create change is to maintain a narrow focus that is bolstered by a deep commitment. When you stay true to your mission, you can feel more confident about the impact you will ultimately have. Over time, being more strategic about your giving will become second nature.

Assistance Is Available
Today’s philanthropists have the chance to redefine the future of philanthropy on a global scale. Your philanthropic super powers represent both an opportunity and a responsibility. Remember: philanthropy is not something you have to do; it is something you get to do. And it’s up to you to craft your philanthropic identity and your giving story.

Morgan Stanley is devoted to helping families deploy their financial and family capital in ways that create new and enriching opportunities for themselves, as well as the people and causes they hold dear. As you embark on your journey of giving, your Financial Advisor can help guide you through the intricacies of developing a philanthropic strategy and making the key connections and crucial decisions that help ensure that your legacy of meaningful giving has a lasting impact.

Important Disclosures:

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning, charitable giving, philanthropic planning and other legal matters.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC reserves the right to change or terminate the Reserved program at any time and without notice. Reserved program participants accounts and activity are reviewed periodically to confirm that they continue to qualify for this program.

© 2019 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.

1The Case Foundation. Millennial Impact Report: 2015. Retrieved December 14, 2015 from http://fi.fudwaca.com/mi/files/2015/07/2015-MillennialImpactReport.pdf.

2Reuters.com. Millennials’ charity drive: passion (2015). Retrieved January 13, 2016 from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-millennials-charity-idUSKBN0TK4HX20151201.

3UNICEF USA. UNICEF Next Generation. Retrieved January 13, 2016 from https://www.unicefusa.org/supporters/donors/nextgen.

4Laskowski K., Hernandez A., Marcus Reker K. (2013). Igniting the Spark: Creating Effective Next Generation Boards. Passages Issue Brief . 1-1. Retrieved December 14, 2015 from https://philanthropynw.org/sites/default/files/resources/Igniting-the-Spark-Creating-Effective-Next-Generation-Boards-NFCP-2013.pdf.

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