A College Student Speaks Out About Philanthropy

by Robert I. Evans & Avrum D. Lapin

The EHL Consulting Group has welcomed a college intern every summer for the last few years. This year we have been very fortunate to have Rebecca Genter, a marketing major about to enter her senior year at Pennsylvania State University. Before she heads back to campus, we asked her to express some thoughts about her experiences and impressions of working with non-profits in the philanthropic marketplace.

1. As you experienced working with non-profits, what observations do you have?

I came into this position with the conception that this a particularly difficult time for non-profits. I had the mindset that people would be ambivalent about giving up the “little bit of money they have left” to charity. But after working here this summer, I’ve seen that there are still many generous people out there! Just because people are giving less doesn’t mean they aren’t giving. Non-profits must work even harder to find their donors, and the organizations that do so prove to be the strongest.

2. Please make some observations about how non-profits are addressing fundraising and attracting younger donors.

I didn’t see a huge push at targeting younger donors during my time here, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Most young people don’t have very much money to give, especially at a time where it’s extremely difficult to find employment. I think now is the time to spend more effort on older, more experienced donors who have a greater interest, rather than the younger generation. But if a non-profit were to attempt to speak to younger donors, using free social networking websites would be a good method.

3. Is social networking important to you and your peers as you think about your charitable giving?

I personally don’t think that social networking will make the largest impact when it comes to charitable giving for people in my age bracket, but it also won’t hurt. The social networking craze is interesting and has good intentions but I don’t know how much people my age actually take from it. Most of the people who will benefit from these sites already access them in their professional lives. It’s rare that going to a social networking site will generate a charitable gift if it wasn’t an original intention. The most interesting site I have seen recently was kickstarter.com, which gives people of all ages an opportunity to raise money for their philanthropic projects by passing information through cyberspace.

4. Did your summer experience make you feel stronger or not about charitable giving?

I definitely feel stronger about charitable giving after this experience. I have always been passionate about philanthropy and I have been on both sides as the giver and the receiver. But after working in a more professional setting I’ve seen how important this industry is to our society. The uncertainty that comes with non-profits can be a bit scary at times, but it also can be a positive challenge for employees. This position gave me a better understanding of the need for continuous giving. Non-profits are always in need and even giving a small amount can make a big impact. There is a lot of important research that must be done before choosing who to reach out to for funding. A major portion of my time was spent researching foundations for different non-profits to find the perfect match for them, which is not always easy. It’s important to examine a foundation’s mission statement, review their annual reports, check their website, and see why the foundation would want to connect with a specific non-profit organization. The same goes for donors. As a potential donor, I now know the elements I should examine before choosing to give support to a non-profit.

5. Since you worked with both Jewish and non-Jewish non-profits, what are the differences and what are the similarities?

I don’t see too many differences between Jewish and non-Jewish non-profit organizations. The main similarity that I see is that any group that shares a common interest, such as religion, can create deeper connections and promote their common goals. All non-profits must focus on financial transparency, donor stewardship, donor recognition, and communication with their constituency. The one major difference I do see is that Jewish organizations can encourage donors based on the cultural principles of tzedakah and mitzvot. These values inspire philanthropy and continue to explain why Jews tend to be charitable.

Robert I. Evans, Managing Director, and Avrum D. Lapin, Director, are principals of The EHL Consulting Group, of suburban Philadelphia, and are frequent contributors to eJewishphilanthropy.com. EHL Consulting works with dozens of non-profits across the globe on fundraising, strategic planning, and non-profit business practices. Become a fan of The EHL Consulting Group on Facebook.