They're not into galas, gowns or black tie. Their icons are Bill Clinton and Bono. And like just about everything else in their lives, they do it online.
Generation Wired - the Gen Xers, Gen Yers, and even the more techno-savvy of the baby boomers - are reinventing the rules of giving, using the Internet to reshape the philanthropic map. Now, a crisis on the other side of the globe demands their charity as much as or more than a crisis in their hometown.
"There is no such thing as local anymore," said Ruth Shack, president of the Dade Community Foundation in Miami. "This new generation of givers are very, very different. They see themselves as change agents. . . . They are giving to issues. Global warming or breast cancer or whatever it is they feel close to."
Want to find young donors, budding community activists, and volunteers? Forget about the traditional phone, direct mail and workplace campaigns. Try MySpace.com, Facebook.com, Change.org, Idealist.org, and blogs and e-mail. This goes beyond using Web sites to collect donations, an idea that grew after the worldwide giving that poured into relief agencies after disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
"This new Web 2.0 approach - social-networking sites and that kind of thing - has really started to intensify for charities in the past year or two," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine in Washington. "New charities are being created using those tools, and older, established charities are embracing them, too."
That's why, for instance, agencies like the Salvation Army, one of the most old-school organizations, created a MySpace page.
The new buzzwords in this Web world are
. Charities, not-for-profits and foundations that "get it" create an online presence that becomes sticky, meaning it draws visitors or hits over a long period of time in a medium that's constantly creating the next big thing.
Generation Wired knows how to promote its favorite causes, using e-mail to point families and friends to fund-raising pitches and encouraging them to pass the message along - it's the classic "you tell two people, and they tell two people and so on and so on" taken to the nth degree - until it becomes viral.
"Everything we do, our entire business model is built around the Web and our technology," said Pat Morris, president of Hands On Miami. He helped found the community action group in 1993. "We use the Web to recruit, to train, to raise money, and to manage our projects."
"Our volunteers go to our Web site to read about the projects we do throughout the year and on Hands On Miami Day," said Andrea Soto, communication director. "They can register online. They can submit a project proposal online. They can donate online. And we send out 10,000 copies of our weekly updates by e-mail."
Word-of-mouth via computer networks long ago caught the eye of Alberto Ibarguen, CEO and president of the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former publisher of the Miami Herald. He believes grassroots electronic campaigns work with Generation Wired because they have a different mindset.
"They have a different notion of privacy than their parents, a different idea as to what information they share in a public forum like the Internet," he said. "Most adults I know aren't comfortable with these concepts. They place a greater trust in brands. The kids have a greater trust in their friends, and that's who they want to hear things from."