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What Do We Know About the Next Generation of Donors?

Scholars calculate that the U.S. is in the process of a generational wealth transfer. Beyond creating their own wealth, a small subset of Gen Xers and Gen Y/Millennials are poised to inherit 40 trillion in wealth, of which much is designated for charitable giving – these generations will wield significant philanthropic power.

By surveying and interviewing donors ages 21 to 40, #NextGenDonors (a new research initiative from The Frey Chair for Family Philanthropy program at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, and 21/64, a nonprofit consulting practice specializing in next gen and multigenerational strategic philanthropy) attempts to understand what drives and influences the next generation's philanthropy. All donors were high-capacity donors, meaning “people currently or potentially active in their families’ significant philanthropic processes, and/or who are wealth creators themselves and are currently or potentially active in their own philanthropy."

Of this new generation of donors, only 42.8% personally support the arts, while 59.4% of their families support the arts. #NextGenDonors found that survey respondents "...are more likely than their families to give to civil rights/advocacy and environment/animal causes, and less likely to give to arts and culture, religious, youth and family, health, community development, and 'combination' organizations, such as the United Way or Jewish Federations."

Donors surveyed reported that they seek closer relationships with the organizations they support (they want to contribute their talent as well as their money). They also want philanthropic experiences that they can feel good about sharing with their peer networks to extend their impact.

The study also shows that donors are driven by value, not valuables, recognizing their privilege and feeling a sense of duty to give and to steward their family legacy. They care about issues rather than institutions, and wish to solve problems, not give to community institutions just because that is expected.

For related research on donor and patron behavior and preferences in our region, see below for some relevant links on our blog and research page.