Giving for the Social Media Generation

This article was written for the Miami Herald by Daily Do Good writer Marcella McCarthy. It is reproduced here exactly as printed on the Herald's website. 

The cultural change toward frugality that took place among millennials during the recession has affected the way they give back to society.

It’s no longer “hip” to pay $500 for a gala ticket. As such, organizations have had to reinvent their strategies to attract young donors.

The Miami Foundation, an organization that connects philanthropy with community needs, has capitalized on technology and social media. Through its Give Miami Day initiative, a 24-hour online campaign complete with a Twitter party, the foundation solicits donations from around the world for Miami-based charities.

“Part of our way of engaging millennials is to meet them where they are, which is online,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of the Miami Foundation.

In 2013, Give Miami Day raised $3.2 million in 24 hours. With minimum donations set at just $25, the campaign is more accessible for young people. This year, Give Miami Day 2014 will take place Nov. 20. As of last week, 173 Miami-based nonprofits had registered to participate. People can click on the charity they want to give to.

“Give Miami Day is a website, and it’s totally mobile so you can access it on your tablet or phone,” said Soto.

Give Miami Day isn’t just about raising money for today’s problems; it’s about developing a habit of giving back in young people.

“Today’s $25 Give Miami Day donor is tomorrow’s endowment builder,” Soto said.

Other groups are following the Miami Foundation’s example in wooing young people.

Marly Quinoces has created the PARK Project, which stands for ‘‘performing acts of random kindness.”

When Quinoces, 31, was growing up in Miami, she thought she had to be older to be a philanthropist, but she said that when she learned the broader meaning of philanthropy, she realized that giving of her time and skills was also just as important.

PARK Project is a nonprofit that earned third place in 2013 in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge. One of its events, the 5K PARK Fest encourages runners, walkers and cheerers to sign up for $40, half of which will go to a charity of their choice.

The project has benefits for both the nonprofit beneficiaries, which can register for free, and the runners and walkers, who start building a team of like-minded people with whom they can work out and socialize.

To help get the word out, PARK Project supplies the charities with communication materials, from pre-written emails to Twitter posts. The only thing the organizations have to do is reach out to their networks.

“You’re giving them everything they need to be successful,” she said.

The idea of doing the heavy lifting for charities that have suffered from the financial downturn is the concept behind Philanthrofest.

Philanthrofest, begun by Miami native Estrella Sibilia, 35, puts together what Sibilia describes as a “job fair within a carnival.” Charities come together to create an event where the public can not only sign up to help, but can learn about the services that are available to them within the community.

Prior to founding Philanthrofest, Sibilia worked in real estate development in Miami.

“I’ve spent years building the skyline, so now I’m building the community around the skyline,” she said.

Philanthrofest 2015 will be held in Miami’s new Museum Park on April 11.

Sibilia also helps organizations with their communication efforts, giving them the tools to build their own marketing campaigns.

“We host digital engagement institutes to teach nonprofits how to engage with social media so they can amplify and build their audience,” she said.

At last year’s Philanthrofest, about 100 organizations participated, Sibilia said. Throughout the year, she has heard stories of how the organizations have helped change people’s lives.

Meanwhile, other organizations are asking young donors to give their talents and skills to a cause.

Blair Butterfield, 33, originally from North Florida, is the founder of Colony1, which she bills as Miami’s “first sustainability center.”

With a net-zero water and energy building in the design phases, Colony1 will be located at 550 NW 52nd St. on a 14,000-square-foot plot of land donated by Miami-Dade County. They began work on the site in June.

Butterfield, director of the Art of Cultural Evolution, a nonprofit, said the site will host a “teaching and learning garden.”

“Instead of paying to harvest your own vegetables, you’ll be growing your own food and taking it home. We’re going to have a local food kitchen that is going to offer one organic meal a day. People who eat that food will be learning to cook that food, too,” she said.

But for those who just want to drop by and pick up some fresh organic food for their household, they can bring their own containers and shop at the zero packaging store. Goods at the store will be grown at Colony1’s 2.5-acre plot of land in Homestead.

All the work for Colony1, from the design to the engineering, has been done by volunteers, who are predominantly millennials.

“There are so many young people [here] who have so many great talents — and so all these people have come together and offered their skills,” she said.



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