Facebook officeFacebook’s initial public offering (IPO)—and the wealth it will soon produce—has been generating considerable buzz among the diverse individuals, organizations, and investors who helped make the company such an extraordinary success. While the coming IPO will no doubt result in short-lived pursuits, the most compelling and hopeful outcome will also endure: social change powered by a new crop of emerging philanthropists.

While capitalism’s financial underbelly has been on full display in recent years, the tradition of American philanthropy has continued to support social change agents that test and refine new ideas for public benefit. In many ways, the nonprofit sector functions as an R&D lab for social innovation. The Facebook IPO and more to follow—including Twitter—represents a philanthropic starting point for dot-com entrepreneurs and internet industry employees to manage their giving with the same passion and rigor in which they invest in mutual funds and ETFs.

Most importantly, engaging a new generation of donors with different priorities, networks, tools, and ideas than earlier generations will certainly ensure a fresh supply of novel approaches to society’s most pressing challenges –ranging from education reform in the United States to global issues such as women’s health in Africa and seed capital for social entrepreneurs in India.

At Tides, we support emerging donors by simplifying and amplifying personal philanthropy. Our array of donor services allows donors to concentrate on the issues and values that are important to them. From a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) that provides immediate tax benefits and a mutual fund-like account for managing charitable giving, to support for setting up a new nonprofit organization, to participating in a donor tour, Tides advises individual, institutional, and corporate donors on their giving strategy with a social justice and impact lens.

As we think about Next Generation philanthropists, we are excited about advancing opportunities in three areas: technology, social innovation, and sustainable nonprofits:

  • Technology: As Facebook has shown, social networking technology has the potential to catalyze action across diverse groups. One need look no further than the Arab Spring—facilitated by Facebook and Twitter—for evidence that technology is having a profound social impact on society. Similarly, sites like Kiva, Kickstarter, DonorsChoose, Global Giving, and more are similarly leveraging the power of technology to raise funds for individuals, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs alike. The possibilities are endless and will expand with new funding and ideas from next generation donors.
  • Social innovation: With deep roots in entrepreneurship, social innovation applies new ideas to solve persistent problems—and then takes these solutions to scale.  In an era of shrinking government budgets at all levels, creating alternative financing models for public services is one such innovation.
  • Sustainable nonprofits: Declining public budgets and a weakened middle class are impacting charitable giving in the United States. Younger generations, however, have an opportunity to fund impactful work that meets their own funding criteria and shapes the future of the sector. Not all nonprofits have or will survive the Great Recession. So while funding is important, volunteering and pro bono services are also important tools for promoting nonprofit sustainability.

As Woodrow Wilson once said: “You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” At Tides, we agree.

Chad Bolick is the Director of Impact & Innovation at Tides.

Image via Flickr user Eston Bond; used under Creative Commons license.