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Tapping into wealth – Trillions at stake

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – Nonprofits, community foundations and financial services companies are competing fiercely for unprecedented wealth that increasingly is controlled by young people.

The key to tapping that new wealth, philanthropy experts said at a statewide conference on philanthropy, lies in figuring out how to engage and cultivate younger donors, while adopting more entrepreneurial fundraising and marketing strategies.

New wealth is being created in the technology industry and through the handing down of wealth from one generation to another.

Researchers at Boston College, for example, estimate that $41 trillion to $136 trillion will be transferred among generations during the next 50 years, with $6 trillion to $25 trillion of that going into charitable bequests.

Speaking at the annual conference of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, an expert on family philanthropy said a big concern among people who care about the health of the nonprofit sector is “whether a charitable ethic is being transferred with those dollars.”

Citing research findings that people who inherit money are significantly less charitable than the entrepreneurs who created the wealth, Ginny Esposito, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., said nonprofits face the challenge of offering young people examples of effective giving by older donors.

Michael Marsicano, a long-time arts fundraiser and now president and CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte, said that growing competition for charitable dollars has prompted more targeted fundraising that caters to donors.

The $250 million-asset Foundation for the Carolinas, for example, now has “donors service representatives,” much like personal bankers, who work closely with major donors to match their interests with causes and groups.

Nonprofits must market themselves as “causes,” he said, and must understand that “young people view the world as they have lived the world – very entrepreneurial.”

Darryl Lester, director of community leadership for the Triangle Community Foundation, said nonprofits need to do a better job of involving young people in their organizations and giving them decision-making authority.

“You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to engage one of those ‘cool rich kids,’” he said.

Skip Moore, executive director of the Weaver Foundation in Greensboro, said that nonprofits “don’t think enough about establishing long-term relationships with donors.”

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