And there are lots of ways for people to give: directly to nonprofits, at events like NetSquared or Craigslist Boot Camp, through online sites such as GlobalGiving or NetworkForGood, or through giving circles, blog badges or Facebook. The wealthy start foundations, work with community trusts, and others use commercial funds such as those offered by Schwab or Calvert.
And Americans give. Some give big -- think Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Others give what they can. Ninety-eight percent of American millionaires say they give. Collectively we give more than $250 billion per year.
Even with all these choices, however, Americans' giving as a percentage of income hovers closely around the 40-year average of 2.2 percent.
Getting children involved in giving is one way we can pass on, and perhaps increase, our generosity. And now there is a new tool dedicated to facilitating giving by young people - YouthGive*. Its one of the few (the only?) giving tools on the Internet that involves kids in the giving. Stories by kids, why they give, where they give, what they give. YouthGive provides tools that help fit giving into other lessons parents might want to teach their kids about money, such as budgeting, the value of an allowance, and why they need to protect their PIN. It ties in nicely with religious traditions, from tithing to tzedakah.
What else would be cool? Right now, YouthGive is a site created by adults and heavily influenced by kids. But in the age of YouTube, MySpace, DonorsChoose, and Club Penguin, it needs to quickly make way for video, kids photos and stories, recommendations from one user to another, and interactivity with other platforms like GiveWell, Facebook or LinkedInforGood. It won't be long now before parents and kids are using hyperlocal sites like outside.in for school bake schools, church fundraisers, chocolate bar sales, and capital campaigns. If current tech and social trends continue, kids will expect to be able to give through their cell phones, use text messages to set up spontaneous demonstrations, get charitable points from all of their Internet searches, buy products that are made in transparent alignment with their own values, and track the use of their donations in real time.
All of these tools for giving are great. Helping young people act on their passions will benefit all of us. Watching the spread of corporate social responsibility and truly sustainable enterprises give me hope. And it will be a great day when can point to the collective charitable impulses, all the financial options and online giving networks, and our own individual investments and consumer choices, and say, "We did it. We changed the world."
*Full disclosure: I am an unpaid member of YouthGive's national advisory board.
Tags: philanthropy, youthgive