Next Doors: Youth Movement

I’ve always felt that the characterization of generations and their qualities was a bit overhyped. Yes, a 50-year-old looks at the world differently than a 25-year-old, and yes, that 25-year-old is into different things than a 75-year-old. 

But some core values transcend generations, even if they’re reflected in different ways. Philanthropy is a great example. It’s not that older people want to be philanthropic and younger people don’t — they just approach philanthropy differently. 

So we decided to chat with some of the more successful and established groups that promote philanthropy for young professionals and see how they’re preparing the next generation of philanthropists for the future. 

Bottom line — it’s not always about the money. It’s about rolling up their sleeves and experiencing the benefits of giving back first-hand, while forming relationships that carry well into the future. 

“I would say what we’re seeing in the next generation is this focus on actual time given back to charities,” said Dan Fischer, vice president of marketing for The Saguaros. “Yes, we are a fundraising organization, and yes, our goal is to always break records, but we are seeing that the actual time impact is becoming more and more important for members and less emphasis on the fundraising.”

The Saguaros, formerly the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club, is a men’s nonprofit that supports Saguaro’s Children’s Charities, which has donated millions of dollars to local nonprofits serving children. Now in its 35th year, The Saguaros pride themselves on “hosting larger-than-life fundraising events that combine five-star service and top-tier fun while raising funds to help local children in need.”

The group consists of 50 active professionals at any given time, many of whom are getting involved in the community for the first time.

“They have seen in their careers and made it far enough and grown the corporate ladder, and they’re saying, ‘I need to do something more that helps the community grow. I can’t just live, work and be social,’” Fischer said. “It’s, ‘Let’s be more impactful,’ and how can they help, whether it’s financially or with their time and volunteering. That’s really where we’re seeing — a lot more people wanting to leave a longer legacy for themselves.”

Junior League of Phoenix is a women’s leadership development organization focused on community impact with more than 800 members and a 90-year history in the Valley — and an evolving focus on empowering women and girls — but their leadership says the most recent class of applicants was heavily comprised of women in their 20s and 30s. 

“It’s interesting, because we’re definitely seeing the younger generation right now,” said Ashley Bunch, board executive vice president of Junior League of Phoenix. “I would say we’re seeing a lot of college graduates and up to probably their mid-30s in the majority of our provisional class this year.”

Incoming Junior League members are focused on getting their hands dirty, literally in some cases — particularly at the organization’s popular Rummage Sale event, which is a required volunteer experience for all members. 

“I think the pandemic really made people think about what’s important to them,” Bunch said. “We are an organization where we’re actually doing the work and we’re actually in the community. I think that’s very appealing in that you get to see the work that you’re doing and you get to work with people to see a project move from one phase to another. So it’s very tactile; you’re a part of it, and you actually get to see it and feel like you’re making a difference.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ashley Ford, past president of Valley of the Sun Active 20-30 Club and current president of its fundraising arm, Valley Kids Foundation. The group consists of 75 women ages 21 to 39 whose events raise funds for about 10-15 nonprofits assisting children Valleywide. Over the past three decades, the organization has raised more than $2.45 million for local nonprofits. 

“Every year, we host mixers for interested women to attend interviews to join the club. The last few years, we have continued to have larger turnouts than the last,” Ford said. “Young professionals are often intimidated by ‘how’ to make a difference. Many want to give back to their communities but don’t know where to start, where they will see their efforts make an impact or are intimidated by volunteer requirements and commitments.”

Ford said the opportunity to do impactful work is a big draw to the organization’s members. 

“Young professionals want to do hands-on work to see the impact they are making,” she said. “Raising money is great, but actually getting to work in-person with the nonprofit you are supporting makes such a larger and lasting impact.”

These young professional groups often lead to future philanthropic involvement. For example, Fischer said that many members of The Saguaros go on to join organizations such as the Scottsdale Charros or The Thunderbirds. Bunch said that many Junior League of Phoenix members go on to serve with organizations such as the Board of Visitors or Valley of the Sun United Way. 

Ford said this next generation will continue to focus on the social aspects of community involvement as well. 

“I believe this next generation of philanthropist will continue to value the social and fun aspects of giving back while seeking out ways to get involved to meet new friends and connections,” she said. 

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About Tom Evans

Tom Evans is Contributing Editor of Frontdoors Media and the Senior Vice President at Lumen Strategies
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