A Surprise Gift from the Next Generation

[This article was originally published in Summer 2020 Oracle]

As Baby Boomers age, there is a lot of speculation about how the sector of philanthropy will be impacted as the next generations come of age. On the one hand, there are great expectations. As studies show, upcoming generations will earn and inherit unprecedented wealth. On the other hand, there are questions. Will the next generation be active in philanthropy? Will they give to the same institutions as their parents or be disposed to generosity in general? After all, it is much easier to pass along assets than it is to pass along values.

Two autumns ago, I had an experience that gave me insight (and hope) about how the next generation approaches philanthropic giving. The seminary had just kicked off a crowdfunding effort called “One Week for One Priest.” In seven days, our goal was to raise enough funds to support one seminarian for the entirety of his time in formation. Soon after launching this effort, we received a $5,000 gift from a new donor. Wanting to convey my gratitude, I picked up the phone to make a thank you call. When I heard the voice at the other end, I was taken aback. I had assumed the gift was from a parent or grandparent of one of the first-year seminarians.

The voice belonged to a young man who recently graduated from college. In the ensuing conversation, I learned he discovered the fundraising effort through a Facebook post while on a break from his job as an engineer. He told me he went to college with one of the seminarians, and he liked the concept of “One Week for One Priest.” He also said he hadn’t completed his tithing for the year, so he thought he would make a gift.

In many ways, I should not have been surprised as to how and why this gift was made. After all, how many people in their 20’s actually write checks? Electronic transactions are the norm. As to the “why,” it made complete sense. He had a personal connection, the seminary aligned with his values, and he could see what his gift would do. These three factors seem to mark giving in every generation. However, the greatest encouragement for me was not how or why he made his gift. It was the fact that he (or anyone for that matter) decided to make the gift in the first place. Every gift ultimately is a beautiful reflection of the source of all generosity – God Himself.

In the world of Institutional Advancement, this miracle of generosity “never gets old.” And, that is why each day we give thanks to God for the many friends who advance the work of priest, deacon, and lay formation with their prayers, time, and financial support. Thank you!

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