How Millennials are Redefining the Non-profit World

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Updated on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Geeting advice on future investments

If you’ve always suspected that millennials have hearts of gold, a new study from Merrill Lynch may help solidify that opinion. According to findings from this new report, 60 percent of millennials are interested in starting their own organization to give something back.

Of course being interested in starting a non-profit and doing so successfully are two very different things. Matthew Dupuis is a Merrill Lynch financial advisor who has worked with dozens of millennials and other clients to help them set up their non-profits. Here’s what he had to say about getting started on the right foot.

What are some of the most common mistakes millennials make when trying to set up a non-profit? 

Dupuis: There are so many great organizations and amazing ideas out there, breaking through to the mainstream is difficult. Take the time to understand what you are trying to achieve, the impact you want to have, and how you plan to get there. It’s so important to do your homework and understand what it takes to build out the infrastructure from scratch, both from a financial and time perspective. Surrounding yourself with people who share your same passions and ambition to make a difference is critical. Setting unrealistic expectations is one of the biggest issues I see.

Also, make sure you are balancing the efforts it takes to set up a non-profit with other personal goals. Particularly for millennials, you still need to be sure to be saving for a rainy day fund or even long-term, such as retirement. Setting up an organization requires heavy lifting, and some people fall short of their personal goals when they don’t look at the big picture. 

For more on how to save for retirement on an inconsistent income, check out this piece, or read this one about how to jump start retirement savings after 40.

What are the three most important things you need to do when trying to set up a non-profit? 

Dupuis: First, take the process one step at a time and have patience — get to know what you’re trying to do and what the roadblocks in front of you might be.

Second, find someone to act as an advisor so you bounce ideas off them and really use them as a soundboard. A good advisor will be able to point you in the right direction and help you put a working plan in place.

Third, understand and focus on what your short, medium and long-term goals are. One of my clients, Clarissa Black, is the founder of Pets for Vets, which matches shelter dogs to returning veterans to help them with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anxiety and depression. As Clarissa was building out the program, we spent time talking about what kept her up at night, the impact she wanted to deliver, and what she was ultimately hoping to achieve. By having a goals-based plan in place, we are able to identify the right solutions to build out the organization for the long-haul.

What other advice do you have, particularly for millennials interested in setting up a non-profit?

Dupuis: Keep in mind it’s never too early to talk with an advisor about putting a plan in place and how you can structure your assets to meet your financial goals. Contributing time and/or money for something that’s important to you is becoming a part of many people’s goals and aspirations. And for those who might not be looking to start a non-profit but want to give, there are organizations and investments you can consider to make an impact. Millennials are redefining philanthropic giving, both in the form of time and money. It’s no longer all about how much one can accumulate, but rather how much one can give back to something they’re passionate about during their lifetime. This millennial generation is making positive impacts every single day and will be alive to see their determinations become realities.

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