Making a Commitment to Be Members Of “Generation Generosity”

Let's use purpose to drive our daily lives, our communities, and our social agendas.

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The Giving Tuesday global generosity movement began back in 2012, and it marked a moment in time when the charitable impulse of individuals and organizations of every stripe was recognized, celebrated, and encouraged.  As I reflect upon the upcoming November 30, 2021 Giving Tuesday effort, it has struck me that this inspiring annual outpouring of largesse represents a greater phenomenon — a kind of evolution of hearts and minds that we’re seeing across a wide spectrum of society.  Let’s call it “Generation Generosity.”

There are millions in our nation who each day give of their time, talent, and treasure to support organizations, institutions, and causes they care deeply about.  I applaud their engagement, their financial support, and their passion to make a difference and improve the lives and prospects of others.  

According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2020, individuals, bequests, foundations, and corporations gave an estimated $471.44 billion to U.S. charities in 2020, a record amount. That marks an increase of 3.8% (when adjusted for inflation) in charitable giving over 2019.  

Through individual and corporate giving, significant impact and change in our world happens every day. Wishes are granted.  Research is funded.  Diseases are fought. Food-insecure children and families are fed.  Racial equity and literacy are furthered. Struggling small businesses are given support. Youth advocates are raising their voices for a better tomorrow. And on and on.

Over the past few years, and certainly during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been awestruck by “Generation Generosity” – because it is indeed the current and upcoming generations of young people whose giving impulses are driving so much positive change in our world.

In my observation, the key tenets of this movement are individuals’ and corporations’ honest desire to improve life for all; their willingness to advocate for what matters most and put their money where their mouths are; and maintain a commitment to authenticity, honesty, and integrity – values that, to Generation Generosity, go way beyond the material.

In writing my forthcoming book, “When Worlds Collide:  The New Marriage of Business and Philanthropy in an Era of Purpose,” I’ve been discussing this trend with a range of corporate CEOs from a variety of business sectors.  Colleagues like Dan Schulman, the visionary President and CEO of PayPal; John Chambers, the legendary CEO of CISCO; AT&T’s Anne Chow; Brian Cornell of Target; and Richard Edelman of Edelman.  

For businesses these days, the managing of revenues and purpose – balancing and juggling those two priorities, which are no longer viewed by anyone as mutually exclusive by the way — is a kind of high-wire act.  But it’s a necessary one.  And the best and smartest executives understand that current and upcoming generations judge a company’s worth not simply by its quarterly earnings, but by the good it’s doing in the community, in society at large, and in the world.

Here are a few examples of what I’m hearing from my conversations with C-suite executives living and working at the intersection and profit and purpose.  Consider these “5 Takeaways in Support of Generation Generosity.”

  • Corporate and nonprofit are merging in important ways. With unprecedented competition for funding, charities are being run more and more like businesses, by leaders who function as CEOs. Conversely, as consumers demand that corporations provide social impact, corporate CEOs are acting like philanthropists.
  • It’s not just about money anymore. The landmark 2019 call by The Business Roundtable for companies to value social purpose as equal in importance to quarterly earnings is now embedded at all levels of most American corporations.  Shareholders are still a priority – but so are employees, customers, and the need for communities to solve social problems and prosper.
  • Talking the talk doesn’t cut it these days. Companies, and the leaders who run them, have to walk the walk around social impact. You call yourself an environmentalist?  Don’t just tell me you’re going carbon neutral by 2050. What are you doing today?
  • With leadership comes responsibility for the world. The best executives aren’t just corporate heads anymore — they’re statesmen and stateswomen, with social consciences and caring agendas. And those agendas are real, not fake.
  • Companies that ignore social impact risk not attracting the best and brightest talent. Millennials and Gen Z have little interest in working for an employer if the CEO doesn’t speak up on issues of social importance, or if the company is not seen as a force for good and a catalyzer of change.  

As CEO of GENYOUth, a youth-wellness nonprofit that works with individuals across the spectrum, from Fortune 500 CEOs to school superintendents to public-school youth in 73,000 schools, I see and hear each day how the impact of public and private partnerships is making a tangible difference in helping to solve real-world problems. And I’ve witnessed firsthand how trailblazing corporations like SAP, Domino’s, Albertsons, Corteva Agriscience and Florida Blue, have stepped up, as America’s hardworking Dairy Farmers do every day, in embracing the role of meaningful and dedicated contributors to GENYOUth’s mission in building healthier school communities. Our work would not be possible without the NFL and partners like PepsiCo, Sleep Number, and Visa. As I often say, no one of us can do it alone. 1+1+1 Is far greater than 3!

With Giving Tuesday 2021 at hand, I urge us all to use this day not simply as a moment to donate or volunteer time to a cause that matters to us . . .  but also to make a commitment to be a full-fledged member of “Generation Generosity.”  Let purpose drive all our daily lives, our communities, and social agendas with gusto, authenticity, inclusion, and real caring.

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