Changing demographics are one of the largest trends influencing nonprofits today. As the next generation of GenXers and Millennials become nonprofit donors, employees and leaders, it is important to help them gain a deeper and broader understanding of philanthropic issues. There are also more females then ever playing an active role in central Indiana philanthropy and to help them flourish we must encourage them to add their fresh voice and unbiased perspectives to solve complex community problems.

As the number of job opportunities with the nonprofit sector grows, it will be imperative that as young philanthropists also grow into their financial means, they have the opportunity to experience first- hand how significant grants to local nonprofits are considered. This will be experience they can always use and call upon.

For many women aspiring to have a career in the not-for-profit sector, professional development and cultivating contacts are keys to building a successful long-term career.  But access points and options for women in their 20s and 30s can be few and far between. Equally daunting is the reality that a nonprofit runs the risk of becoming stagnant when diverse perspectives are not available. Together, through collaboration and a commitment to collectively understand all aspects of the nonprofit grant making process, we can create a community of well-informed women and "raise the tide" of philanthropy in Indianapolis.

What are the benefits when seasoned donors and up-and-coming philanthropists work together through programs such as internships and scholarship opportunities?

Cultivating Contacts

At Impact 100, the largest Indiana women’s collective giving group, members and scholarship recipients have the opportunity to get to know each other in a collaborative setting. We are able to foster connectivity between women of different ages and backgrounds while we work in committees to select grantees in arts, education, environment, family and health and wellness. Often younger and older women become personal and professional friends and mentors.  By working together, both groups also become more engaged with local nonprofit leaders as they learn about at-risk populations served. This also encourages more strategic philanthropic gifts.

Never Stop Learning

Learning the factors that grant makers weigh in their decision-making is an invaluable experience. It is also important to include nonprofit employees working "on the ground" on these issues when grant committees members think about how a nonprofit will absorb and effectively utilize funds to be awarded. It is invaluable for nonprofits receiving a grant to understand how decisions are made and the intricacies and rationale of grant reporting requirements. Lastly, the committee process illuminates new nonprofits doing important work in our community that often go unheralded because of lower name recognition. Reading grants in committees encourages donors to naturally learn about nonprofits and potentially become wiser donors.

Build Diversity Diversity in membership, experience and perspectives allows a nonprofit to better understand the community it serves and leads to stronger grant making decisions. Diversity builds mutual respect. We have found in committee work that younger women bring a new perspective to our discussions and they feel supported throughout our rigorous due diligence process. More experienced women say they have the opportunity to share lessons learned.  
As we reflect on 2016 and the needs of the at-risk population in our community in the coming year, we hope everyone making philanthropic decisions will purposefully widen their circle of influence to bridge gaps that exist between generations.

Donna Oklak is a co-founder of Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis.

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