Peloton is pleased to share this article by guest contributor Tom Hanley with you.  For more information about Tom and his non-profit organization, please see the information at the bottom of this page. 

There are two distinct types of non-profit organizations: those that ask for your contributions in donation envelopes, and those that engage with you on a personal, experience based level.

Both of these organizations are making an active difference in the world and both have pure intentions. Both of these organizations will accept your dollars, but how they are used, and how they impact your chosen nonprofit vary greatly. Here, the donor must decide which organization type they would like to support and what relationships they would like with the overall mission of the organization.

Across the nonprofit industry, we are seeing a shift in donor behavior: Increasingly, younger philanthropists are interested in more than giving their dollars to causes. A new generation of action minded givers want to have hands-on experiences with the programs they are supporting. It’s a cultural shift from “I support you through my money” to “I support you through my money and time to help advance the mission of the organization”. Donors expect to have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and work side by side with the organizations they support. For smaller non-profits, this shift may be a positive change. These organizations, often with limited financial resources, will gain not only from financial giving, but from the volunteer hours that philanthropists are hoping to give. Small non-profits are able to engage with donors on a more personal level. Hands on experiences that couple the executive director of an organization and philanthropist and allow them to work side by side. This opportunity allows a nonprofit to better share their story and build a personal bond between the giver and the cause.

When I receive donations for Nine13sports, I often reply by asking if there is a youth site the donor would like to join me at for a day. It’s not a requirement of giving to Nine13sports, but it’s a chance for those that want it to see the impact of their contribution. I approach my job not only as the executive director for a fast growing non-profit, but as a concierge to those that support our efforts to bring health and wellness to children. My desire is to include them, to make them feel welcomed and to engage them at a level that provides a personal connection to the impact their philanthropy is making on the community.

I often hear young donors remark, “I want to give money, but I don’t know where to begin. I’ve never been in a positon to do this before and want to make sure my gift makes a difference.” My reply advice is to find something that you’re passionate about. Find an organization that can engage you at the level you want to be involved with, and find a cause that is represented by an individual or group that you believe in. You’re not investing dollars into them for financial gain, but you’re certainly investing dollars into them for an emotionally rewarding impact.

Philanthropy is supposed to be fun and rewarding, not intimidating. Decide what your biggest passions are and seek out organizations that fall in line with those passions. You can make an impact, regardless of the size of your donation. Take the time to find an organization that you feel respects you and not only wants your money, but your knowledge and time.

—Oh, and if your passion is bicycling or youth fitness or obesity awareness, feel free to connect with me personally. I promise to show you what an impact you can make on Nine13sports through our Kids Riding Bikes programs.

Tom Hanley is Founder and Executive Director for Nine13sports, a fast growing Indianapolis non-profit that provides bicycle programs to schools and youth organizations to promote youth health and fitness. Launched in 2012, Tom has piloted the organization through immense growth and in 2014, the organization will create over 20,000 youth interactions. In 2015, Nine13sports will launch in Portland, Oregon.