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Philanthropy is a multi-billion dollar industry.  There are thousands of grant-making institutions and hundreds of supporting organizations clustered around causes, regions, political affiliations and more.  According to the 2003 Wealth Transfer Report more than $40 trillion will transfer from older to younger generations before 2050 in the United States alone.  In 2009, roughly 115,000 American households held fortunes of $25 million or more, a substantial increase from the previous decade. Despite these numbers, not enough young people from families of extreme wealth get involved in strategic philanthropy.  To change this tide and motivate greater generosity we are developing programs to support young wealth-holders and offering a conceptual model to describe the “lifecycle” of philanthropists.  The innovation offered by this model is the attempt to consider young donor education in a holistic way.

How do young wealth-holders, today, differ from previous generations?  What values and ideologies do young inheritors have in common?  Why do only some from ultra-affluent families get involved in strategic philanthropy?  We observe that a chief limiting factor of philanthropic inclination is an “inspiration and awareness deficit,” defined as a lack of awareness, vision, or hope.  Our work seeks to overcome this Inspiration & Awareness Gap in a systemic way by:

1) Encouraging families to look more deeply into the character and identity development of their children,

2) Building networks and facilitating collaboration among existing young philanthropy support organizations, and

3) Empowering young wealth-holders to see their age and their “generation” as important resources for social change.  “If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.”  Donors become motivated when they can give in more ways than money. Just as women’s issues motivated and galvanized women philanthropists to imagine and join movements of women, so too can youth issues motivate and galvanize young philanthropists.

Our Origin and Trajectory

On Wednesday July 28th, 2010, a group of 15 stakeholders in the sector of organized philanthropy came together at the office of Search for Common Ground in Washington, D.C. The previous day most had participated in the White House Conference on Next Generation Leadership. Both gatherings were successful in creating communities that intend to collaborate in an ongoing way.

After a collective brainstorm and mapping of groups (presented on this website) we discussed a number of other ideas which set the stage for an emerging series of projects and the inaugural Nexus Global Youth Summit.

We also discussed “Branding.” The terms inheritor, philanthropist, wealth-holder, etc. all leave something to be desired. People do not like to be defined by their financial assets or targeted by fundraisers. Others do not like the expectations or burdens that come with these labels. To address the problem, we are promoting two ideas: 1) tasking a team to re-brand the concept / constituency, and 2) making a film/documentary that promotes new role models for this group. If you are interested in either of these ideas, please contact us.

Beyond the concepts and links on this website, all of our programming is developed through Nexus.


Our Bios
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Jonah Wittkamper is Founder and Global Director of the Nexus Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. “Nexus” is a global network of over 1000 young wealth-holders and social entrepreneurs from 60+ countries and hundreds of the world’s most influential families. As a facilitator, techie, entrepreneur and champion of youth, Jonah has worked globally with young philanthropists for nearly a decade. Earlier in his career, Jonah created a corporate social responsibility initiative in one of the world’s largest corporations, founded two Internet start ups, helped build the text messaging technology of the 2008 Obama campaign, and Co-Founded the Global Youth Action Network / TakingITGlobal.org (an international association youth organizations and website of young social change leaders that receives nearly 2 million hits a day). His work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Forbes, Vanity Fair and numerous other publications. Jonah earned his BA from Williams College, lives in the Washington, DC area, speaks three languages, and dedicates his time to the celebration of diversity and humility.

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