The next gene­ra­tion needs to inspire

Les fondations et les organisations bénévoles peuvent impliquer la prochaine génération. Sinon, celle-ci suit sa propre voie.

Their methods are radi­cal, some­ti­mes even ille­gal. This is hardly surpri­sing: Gene­ra­tion Z, named after the last letter in the alpha­bet, has to face up to the thought that it may be the last gene­ra­tion of all. Their prede­ces­sors in the West were able to enjoy an era without any major conflicts. The US poli­ti­cal scien­tist Fran­cis Fuku­yama posi­ted the theory of the ‘end of history’ in all serious­ness as early as the late 1980s, belie­ving that libe­ral demo­cracy had prevai­led for good. It is fitting then that the first gene­ra­tion of digi­tal nati­ves was able to make a cosy home for itself in the infi­nite expan­ses of the digi­tal space. Conver­sely, the youn­ger generation’s world is shaped by funda­men­tal chal­lenges in terms of envi­ron­men­tal policy: dwind­ling biodi­ver­sity, global warm­ing and resource shorta­ges are the issues with which our society is grap­pling. Phil­an­thro­pic initia­ti­ves are also picking up on these topics to an incre­asing extent, with 7% of all foun­da­ti­ons working on issues rela­ted to envi­ron­men­tal protec­tion in 2022. Accor­ding to the foundation’s report, this figure rises to 10% for foun­da­ti­ons estab­lished within the last decade. Howe­ver, it is not just the topics at hand that are chan­ging, the tradi­tio­nal models are also subject to scru­tiny. ‘The tradi­tio­nal form of phil­an­thropy has failed,’ said André Hoff­mann, for instance, in a much-discus­sed NZZ inter­view two years ago. His father, Luc Hoff­mann, estab­lished the Mava Foun­da­tion, which was active in the envi­ron­men­tal sector. André Hoff­mann has now closed the foundation.

The power of transparency

This discus­sion reve­als a point of tension: foun­da­ti­ons have an impact on the reality of the next gene­ra­tion by speci­fi­cally preser­ving a world, a cultu­ral asset, a perspec­tive on the future. At the same time, their purpose – which is near-impos­si­ble to change – perpe­tua­tes the values of the previous gene­ra­tion. The next gene­ra­tion has limi­ted ways in which to influence matters, parti­cu­larly on stra­te­gic commit­tees: 75% of foun­da­tion trus­tees are over the age of 50 and just 5% under 40, accor­ding to the report Diver­sité et conseils de fonda­ti­ons d’utilité publi­que en Suisse. This does little to make foun­da­ti­ons an appe­al­ing pros­pect for Gene­ra­ti­ons Y and Z, and those that will come after them. Further­more, it also means that the next gene­ra­tion can often make more effi­ci­ent head­way by forging its own path. New ideas are shared on social media and deve­lo­ped in tandem with the commu­nity, as shown by Buy Food with Plas­tic. The desire for trans­pa­rency and colla­bo­ra­tion plays a key role in this respect. A strong commu­nity lends a project accep­tance, instead of a small group making decis­i­ons behind closed doors on support, direc­tion and, in turn, the future. Today, finan­cing is secu­red via crowd­fun­ding, crowd­sour­cing and even part­ner­ships. The tradi­tio­nal project-based funding model is facing compe­ti­tion – and being called into ques­tion. Inves­tors are also driving forward deve­lo­p­ments in this field. The new gene­ra­tion is looking for sustainable invest­ment stra­te­gies, hoping that they can use their money to make both an impact and a profit. Foun­da­ti­ons should also use their capi­tal assets, curr­ently sitting at CHF 140 billion, to further support their own purposes.

Early invol­vement

Other examp­les show how orga­ni­sa­ti­ons, no matter how tradi­tio­nal, can get the new gene­ra­tion invol­ved, adopt their ideas and make them acces­si­ble. The Swiss Guide and Scout Move­ment has 50,500 members – with more joining every day. Foun­ded in 1907 by 50-year-old Robert Stephen­son Smyth Baden-Powell (known as ‘B‑P’), this orga­ni­sa­tion encou­ra­ges young people to ‘do a good turn daily’ – and more than a century on, is still succee­ding in its mission. ‘Pfadis’, as they are known in Switz­er­land, now invest count­less hours of volun­t­ary work in provi­ding support for society, just as many other youth orga­ni­sa­ti­ons do. This has the desi­red result because young people are given respon­si­bi­lity at an early stage and the oppor­tu­nity to have their say. How do we inte­grate the next gene­ra­tion into the foun­da­tion sector and inspire them to engage in foun­da­tion work? This is not an easy task due to the numbers at play. Demo­gra­phic change means that the next gene­ra­tion will be smal­ler than its prede­ces­sors. In 1990, 40.7% of the popu­la­tion was under the age of 20, accor­ding to the Fede­ral Statis­ti­cal Office, but by 2020 this number had halved to 19.9%. Conver­sely, the number of people over 65 tripled, incre­asing from 5.8% to 18.8%. The refe­rence scena­rio fore­casts that this trend will conti­nue until 2050. In short, it will be the respon­si­bi­lity of the older gene­ra­ti­ons to give their succes­sors a voice and to accept that they have their own ideas, concepts and methods in order to be heard.

The next gene­ra­tion in foun­da­tion work: join the discus­sion within our network

StiftungSchweiz is committed to enabling a modern philanthropy that unites and excites people and has maximum impact with minimal time and effort.

Follow StiftungSchweiz on