Young, loaded, and eager to share

Giving keeps gaining. Yes, the least affluent still dig deepest. And yes, overall charitable donations remain stuck at about 2 percent of GDP.

But there are some fresh faces.

They belong to the very young.

Time magazine's blowout issue on "the new philanthropists" notwithstanding, the concept of "venture philanthropy" - hands-on giving that demands accountability on the part of organizations that distribute funds - is nothing new.

The phrase's buzz quotient may have risen with the 1990s deluge of dotcom dollars. But at the turn of another century, givers like Andrew Carnegie were just as keen on knowing their bequests weren't being frittered away.

What is new: the arrival on the philanthropic scene of a network of well-off youths.

They're not just from Gen X. (Incidentally, the writer Douglas Coupland, who popularized that term in defining his contemporaries, turns 40 late next year.)

We're talking, rather, about monied individuals a decade (or two) younger - "cool rich kids," as one of them labels the movement.

Their wealth is often inherited. And many speak of being not all that comfortable just sitting on daddy's cash.

Poor little rich kids? Hardly. Every generation has its idealists. But never, perhaps, have so many had such dizzying financial clout - or so clear an idea of what they want to do with it.

The beneficiaries: grass-roots, cause-targeted groups with the organizational savvy to make those cool-rich dollars work. Many are too small to appear on the radar of the big donors. Some aren't even nonprofits (and often get passed over, for tax reasons).

But all are happy to sip from this fountain of youthful largess.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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