The new face of giving in Delaware

A champion for children and giving back to the community, the late Muriel Gilman’s power was not in her words, but in her deeds. She was one face of philanthropy in Delaware, but who the face of philanthropy will be in 25 years, is a question many in the nonprofit world are asking.

“We work with a lot of non-profit boards and committees… and when you look across the room, it’s really clear that the older generation is doing, you know, the heavy lifting and the work of the non-profit organizations,” said Mary Hopkins with the Delaware Community Foundation.

DCF awards grants to more than 200 nonprofits statewide. The organization also manages money for foundations and donors, connecting them with causes and organizations they’re interested in. DCF says it sees, firsthand, the need for younger people to step in and step up. 

According to the survey conducted by Wilmington-based Chase Card Services, 63 percent of Americans ages 55 and up donated more than $100 to charity in 2011, compared to only 47 percent of those under 55.

“I think there’s a lot of people who want to get involved and they don’t know how to,” said Don Nicholson, Jr., president of a group called The Next Generation.

Founded in 2004, The Next Generation started as a way to get 30 and 40-somethings involved with nonprofits and philanthropy — sort of a training ground.

“The first goal is you have, you know, is to raise the funds to provide the grants to the nonprofits in the community. But the second is to create effective board members to go out to other boards in the community,” said Nicholson.

“There is a lot to learn, there’s a lot more than you would think,” added Mark Lucey, TNG’s past president, who says, philanthropy isn’t just about writing a blank check anymore.

“Understanding the management of these organizations, the focus and make sure it fits into our focus, but also just to learn how to participate at that board level, learn how to read a balance sheet, look at an income statement and decide is this a viable opportunity for us to take a part in,” said Lucey.

TNG recently awarded $35,000 to organizations like Girls on the Run, to help fight childhood obesity. Currently 40 members strong, Lucey says 50 percent came on board in the past couple years. A trend current president Don Nicholson hopes continues.

“Just like the baby boomers are starting to retire, you know, you’re having that, there could be a gap,” Nicholson said.

A widening gap, 63-year-old Christine Cannon worries about. The Cannon name is well known in the philanthropy world. The Arsht-Cannon Fund, to date, has donated millions to the state and to area nonprofits.

“Delaware Community Foundation, I work on their grants committee, and I see several young people that, a couple are on their Board of Directors, that just, I just love to hear their ideas… Also with, certainly, the social media part of it, I mean, we need that to communicate and our young people, young adults, they’re the leaders and they know how to use the tools so well that we can reach more people and say, you know, ‘We need your time, we need your support, we need your passion,'” said Cannon.

And, Cannon says, it doesn’t take much to help and there’s certainly no shortage of opportunities. According to the Delaware Association of Nonprofit Agencies’ 2010 report, there are more than 950 active organizations throughout the state that can always use volunteers.

First takes an in-depth look at these “new givers,” tonight, and tells you how you can help. Be sure to watch First, Friday night at 5:30 and again at 11 p.m. You can also check it out Sunday at 11 a.m. and Monday night at 5:30. 

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