How the Next Generation Gives

An understanding of what motivates the next generation of donors to give can provide fundraisers with key insights into how to attract their donation dollars.

Their Perspective

The practice is called “giving while living,” and it has dramatically altered the world of philanthropy. According to media site Big Think (1), new billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg are determined to give their fortunes away during their lifetime.

Once they’re gone, so are those billions of dollars.

This new generation of donors – Gen “X” (born 1964–1980) and Gen “Y” (born 1981–2000) – are predicted to inherit over $40 trillion in wealth and create trillions more in their lifetimes. Naturally, nonprofits and for-profits alike are scrambling to learn how to engage them and attract a share of this wealth.

Perhaps the most important insight is that these donors want to see, up close and personal, the impact their money is making. And, since they are giving huge sums of it at once rather than doling it out over decades, they are able to better leverage those funds to accomplish as much as possible.

Their Connection

The next generation of donors has grown up with strong philanthropic values. A study conducted by NextGen Donors(2) found that 90% of respondents cited their parents and grandparents as their philanthropic role models. But, while they aspire to follow the philanthropic path, they do want to chart their own course. These donors want to give to an organization that resonates with them personally – rather than continuing to give to a cause that their family has a history of supporting.

NextGen donors are still finding their identity. While family and peers are a factor in their development, the most important influencer is personal experience.

Similar to almost any purchase decision, this group of donors will research a cause and organization online and on social media. What they look for is a cause that matters to them and appears to need their help. To them, it’s more than just writing a cheque. They want to develop a close relationship with a cause they care about. This often means offering their time or their professional talents as well.

Their Commitment

Reaching out to personal networks is also a natural tendency for NextGen donors. They realize that the more people they can involve, the greater the impact their gifts will make. And, unlike donors of previous generations, there is a greater sense of immediacy. These donors want to support their chosen cause now and see the impact of their gifts.

Their Outcomes

While their grandparents and parents might have supported a particular non-profit organization because it was traditionally “their cause”, these new givers look further. They want to tackle the root of a problem or issue they are passionate about. And to them, being an important part of a cohesive philanthropic strategy is a major distinguishing factor between themselves and previous generations.

But above all, they’re focused on the impact. They want to see that their contribution is making a real difference.

The New Face of Philanthropy

According to Wiley InterScience (3), the face of philanthropy has evolved.

Today’s rising donors are individuals who seek to make a difference. And they aren’t afraid of less conventional ways to achieve that. They want to engage in a cause they care deeply about and rally their peers, their network, and their community around it. And being around to see the results is an important part of their approach.

Today’s rising donors are individuals who seek to make a difference. And they aren’t afraid of less conventional ways to achieve that.

It is natural to think of the headline-grabbing big name gift-givers when it comes time for fundraising – but the truth is, there are far more “next generation” givers out there. These NextGen donors have the potential to become the most significant philanthropists in history. There’s enormous potential here. By understanding their motivations, we can help them make a big difference in our communities and the world around us.