Next-Gen Donors Focused on Values, Impact, Hands-On Engagement, Report Finds

When it comes to philanthropy, Gen X and Gen Y/Millennial donors are keenly interested in personal values, measurable impact, and hands-on engagement, a new report from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University and 21/64, a nonprofit consulting practice specializing in next-gen and multi-generational strategic philanthropy, finds.

Based on a national online survey of and interviews with young philanthropists, the report, Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy (80 pages, PDF), found that a relatively small group of Gen Xers (born between 1964 and 1980) and Gen Y/Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) will inherit more than $40 trillion over the coming decades. And while they are not necessarily more charitably inclined than their parents or grandparents, the sheer volume of funds, foundations, and other types of giving by high-net-worth families is expanding to unprecedented levels, putting them in a position to wield more philanthropic power than any previous generation in American history. The report also found that next-gen donors seem to be driven by values rather than "valuables"; that they see philanthropic "strategy" as the major distinguishing factor between themselves and previous generations and intend to change how philanthropic decisions and due diligence are conducted; that they want to develop close, hands-on relationships with the organizations or causes they support; and that, as engaged as they already are, they are still figuring out what kind of donors they want to be.

Funded by the Frey Chair for Family Philanthropy program at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, and an anonymous donor, the report was unveiled over the weekend at the Council on Foundations 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference.

In conjunction with the report's release, the Johnson Center and 21/64 allowed GrantCraft, a joint project of the Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre in Brussels, to conduct a parallel analysis of their interviews with major next-gen donors. Next Gen Donors: Shaping the Future of Philanthropy (12 pages, PDF), the report based on that analysis, highlights the "practical wisdom" and insights of next-gen donors with respect to their hunger for engagement, new ways of learning, and making a difference sooner rather than later. "The idea that I'm going to have one trusted advisor or a limited set of trusted advisors, I totally don't feel at all," one young philanthropist told the report's authors. "I mean, I want everyone to help me and some things are going to make more sense than others."

"Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy." 21/64 and Johnson Center for Philanthropy Report 01/27/2013.