A peek into next generation philanthropy – It’s not just which problems they plan to tackle but how

A Philanthropic throw-back? The next generation affluent look to model their giving after Rockefeller and Carnegie, focusing on impact not institutions.

A just released survey of the next generation philanthropist (Generations  X, Y and millennials) indicates a shift in how they are giving. It’s a bit of a throwback to the style of Rockefeller and Carnegie – rather than be satisfied with “checkbook charity,” they are increasingly more engaged and focused on what measurable impact they’ll make. Further, in pursuit of making an impact on an issue, the cause comes before the non-profit entity.

The survey considered the behaviors and attitudes of affluent 20 and 30 somethings who give away at least $250,000 annually, and was conducted jointly by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy and 21/64. The bulk of next generation wealth is inherited (Mark Zuckerberg not withstanding), as scholars project that at least $41 trillion will transfer as bequests to the post-Baby Boom generations over the first half of the 21st century.

Imagine $41 trillion dollars put to work to strategically solve some of the world’s most intractable problems? This affluent generation says it’s not interested in funding community institutions just because that is expected of them. They want to engage with organizations with which they can connect in personal ways. This desire for close, hands-on engagement utilizing personal interests and skills is a major finding of this study.

And they recognize the power of partnerships. The survey reports:  Along with time, talent, and treasure, they also give their ties – their peer networks, their connections to others. Among these major donors, this connection to peers who can also give is particularly powerful.8 If they work and give together, as they like to do, they can be a significant force.

Where the next study needs to head is surfacing the desired impact. What are the key problems this group wants to change? Would they collaborate? Would personalities and politics get in the way? What would be the vehicle and where would they begin? That’s the next phase that’s the most exciting, that Rockefeller, Carnegie and Gates were able to figure out, and in the process eliminate deadly diseases, educate new generations of scholars and innovate new methods of philanthropy that made for sustainable long term social change.


About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.