Florida Weekly Column

Is High Tech the New High Touch?

Is High Tech the New High Touch?

There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow! as the theme song of the GE exhibit Carousel of Progress at Disney Magic Kingdom reminds us. It is a living monument to the past and a nod to the future. Maybe you remember the exhibit anchored in Tomorrowland? While the stage moves, the model family gets older, their fashion and hairstyles change and the family unit itself changes (but that is for another article). With each scene the latest inventions are displayed and the number of wires from the ceilings and walls are reduced to the glow of new wireless technology filling the “contemporary” living room.

In our fast paced world, it often seems hard to keep up with the latest trends. The holiday ads are finding clever ways to introduce new gadgets, like universal charging stations for all the family’s electronic devices, “smart watches,” and much more.

Technology has made communication available around the world in real-time, 24-7, even grandchildren now visit with their doting grandparents via Face Time or Skype. It has propelled charitable giving from bank drafts, wire transfers of securities, and online donations, to new platforms like text-to-give and crowdfunding, not to mention virtual currencies like Bitcoin. Social media has opened the door to Ice Bucket Challenges and compelling real time video of social injustice happening in our neighborhood and worldwide.

At the same time that technology is leading the charge of change, our country is simultaneously experiencing the loss of its “Greatest Generation,” and with that, the largest-ever transfer of wealth from one generation to the next will take place.

In philanthropy, the younger generations, much like their famous peers Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of Facebook) and his wife Priscilla Chan, are strategic in their giving by taking an entrepreneurial approach to support social issues and establishing measurable outcomes to realize return on investment. The young philanthropists want to know exactly where their money is going and the difference it is making – now. They aren’t seeking to establish big foundations or infrastructure to do their work, instead the Zuckerbergs partner with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to stealthily affect their causes. This is the future of philanthropy.

I saw these two worlds collide recently when meeting with a 94-year-old donor who carried his smart phone with him to our office at the community foundation. Though our smart device-carrying seniors are savvy, they still expect a human touch. I guess we could say they’re “wired” that way, pun sort of intended. People in their 60s, 70s and 80s respond differently than their younger counterparts to appeals to buy a product or service, or give to a cause, and not to mention that they expect to be able to communicate with the provider in the process.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we cater to the way donors want to give, and to engage people the way they want to be engaged. We are reminded that technology is designed to help us be more efficient, but to never forget the importance of the human touch, the simple wave, smile or question about the grandkids. If ever we could reimagine a better way to accomplish “a great big beautiful tomorrow,” it is going to take a well-placed combination of high tech and high touch.

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