There are certainly many motivating factors, but for those donors who stay with us the longest, I suspect a personal connection to the cause they are supporting/funding is a must. It is one thing to think "there are poor children in the world and I should help feed them..."; it is another to sign on to sponsor a child for years. It might be because a sponsor grew up in poverty. Or maybe he/she is trying to teach their own children a life lesson.
I write about this topic because of something that happened to me a few weeks ago (partially the reason for this blog's hiatus). Her name was Lapa. This means "paw" in Russian. When I first brought her home, she was so small her whole little body fit into my hand-hence the name. Thirteen years later, she woke up with a terrible chocking/cough one morning and two days later we were saying goodbye to her at the vet's.
Perhaps people who are not dog owners would never understand the connection between a dog and her owner, but when I went looking for a way to honor her memory online, and typed in "Cairn Terrier Rescue" I stumbled across the Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network, and found a group of people who would understand in a heartbeat.
I thought their story was very fitting for what this blg is all about at its heart-harnessing people's willingness to give and go above and beyond for causes they truly care about, and figuring out how to best harness that within Gen Y.
So Col. Powell was a Cairn Terrier, whose "mom" was very active in an AOL CairnTerrier Group. He met a tragic death when he was hit by a car. People who had never met him in real life, but heard all about his antics, wanted to do something in his memory, and there was so much outpouring of support, that the group mobilized and is now helping rescue, foster, and find permanent homes for Cairn Terriers across the U.S.
To me, the Gen Y moral of this story points to something that I think is one of the root causes of the relationship (or lack thereof) between Gen Y and many nonprofits, especially the larger ones with extensive professional staff, networks, and bureaucracies. If a group of people on the web can mobilize to do so much good around a cause (or say terrier) they care about, why should they instead fork over their dollars to someone else and trust that those dollars would be used to achieve the same amount of good, but often without any way of knowing just how much good has been achieved or where the money even went?
Certainly, nonprofits have developed levels of accountability-there is Charity Navigator, financials on the websites, info about how much of every $ donated goes to overhead...but to get to Gen Y's dollars, we may have to develop alternate methods of "accountability" that speak more to our ability to reach where ordinary people may not be able to reach, do what ordinary people may not be able to do, but forming a group online.
On Col. Powell's network, I can read a blog that tells me all about the Cairns that have been rescued, how they are doing, who is fostering them, and read heartwarming stories of Cairns and adoptive owners coming together. Reading the blog provides the kind of accountability that matters to me-I know that not every dollar I gave may go directly to help a Cairn, but I can tell how much good the dollars that do make it to them are doing.