Act Global: Tips for Next Gen Donors Looking to Volunteer Abroad

By Deborah Goldstein, principal, Enlightened Philanthropy

According to groundbreaking work by 21/64 and the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University, I can be considered a member of Next Gen Donors. The research focuses on Gen X and Gen Y/Millenials ages 21-40 who will inherit $40 trillion in the coming years.

Like me, you may not be anticipating an inheritance. However, you might share some of the traits found among this cohort:

  1. Are you driven by values, not valuables? Next Gen Donors honor the legacy of their parents and grandparents in their giving, while exploring emerging tools and opportunities.
  2. Are you focused on impact? Next Gen Donors want to see an impact as a result of their philanthropy. They are focused on strategic philanthropy.
  3. Do you give your time, talent, treasure, and ties to causes you are passionate about? Next Gen Donors give at a much deeper level, a very engaged, hands-on level. And they’re willing to bring their network or ties to the table, too.
  4. Are you engaging in philanthropy now? Next Gen Donors are engaging in philanthropy NOW instead of waiting until later in life. In the process, they are crafting their philanthropic identity by engaging in ways that allow them to learn more by seeing and doing.

Hawksbill_Sea_Turtle_(Eretmochelys_imbricata)_(6161757878)In August 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for two weeks to work with two conservation organizations—the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (or ICAPO-Iniciativa Carey del Pacifico Oriental), and Paso Pacifico. I have been passionate about sea turtle conservation for decades and was finally able to personally rescue sea turtle eggs for protection in a hatchery and release hatchlings safely into the ocean.

For those of us who are Next Gen, experiences like this are critical to our engagement with philanthropy. They help us understand the issues and craft our philanthropic identity in a way that merely writing a check cannot.

Have you been looking for a way to give back and have some fun too?

If so, I urge you to JUST DO IT!

Three Tips for Volunteers:

  1. This is NOT a vacation. The term volunteer “vacation” is a misnomer. You will be lending yourself to the organization to work. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a blast along the way, but you have to remember, you’re there for work and not play.
  2. Be open to how you’ll be helpful. I hadn’t imagined any type of work except for helping rescue turtles. So, when I was asked to put together a brochure that promotes ICAPO’s tours and volunteer opportunities, I realized I had the skills to help the organization in an unexpected way.
  3. Learn the language. When you’re in a remote part of the world, the likelihood of the locals speaking English is slim. While I’d brushed up on my Spanish prior to departure, I couldn’t speak at length with the locals who patrolled the beaches or managed the hatchery. This is one opportunity I feel I missed—being able to really connect with the people with whom I was interacting. Thank goodness for sign language and smiles and laughter AND translators!

By the end of my second week in Nicaragua, I felt fully immersed in the culture and its conservation issues. I left a more emboldened and passionate advocate than I had arrived. I left with the fulfillment of having traveled for a purpose—to learn more about a cause that is important to me and help conserve endangered species. And I left with a desire to travel more often with a purpose.

So, what are you going to do with your dream to help others? The ends of the earth really are your only limit!

1Deborah Goldstein is the principal of Enlightened Philanthropy and is dedicated to guiding the next generation in giving. She advises multi-generational families and youth as they explore the world of philanthropy. She is also a certified 21/64 trainer. More thoughts on her trip to Nicaragua can be found on her blog

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