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Millennials and Philanthropy: Major Stars or Bit Players?

March 04, 2013
With 20+something CEOs and business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg making meaningful donations to pet causes, it is time to take a closer look at this generation and view its potential as a force in future philanthropy.

According to the first ever research project of potential Gen X and Millennial major donors, conducted by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University with input and assistance from 21/64, a non-profit consulting practice,
"The next generation of major donors has the potential to be the most transformative philanthropists in history". "The Gen Xers and Millennials who are inheriting the $40 trillion wealth transfer, along with those making their own wealth, will control unprecedented amounts of philanthropic resources."

The researchers note this phenomenon—large amount of wealth along with assets passed to decendants through pre-bequest transfers and the amount of new wealth created—has lead some observers to predict a new "golden age of philanthropy".

Key points to consider on how these major donors differ from previous generations of major givers:

Driven by VALUES NOT VALUABLES  Values will drive them--not the trappings that go along with having wealth. The data says these values have more often than not been learned from parents and grandparents.

IMPACT FIRST!!  These next gen major donors highlight the importance of strategy for the future of the field. "They see philanthropic strategy as the major distinguishing factor between themselves and previous generations and see previous generations as more motivated by desire for recognition or social requirements, while seeing themselves as focused on impact first and foremost!"

TIME, TALENT AND TIES  Once engaged, these next gen donors want to go "all in." Giving without significant hands-on engagement feels to them like a hollow investment with little assurance of impact. They want to develop close relationships with organizations or causes they support. This group also wants to listen and offer their own professional or personal talents, all in order to solve problems together.

CRAFTING THEIR OWN PHILANTHROPIC IDENTITIES   Most of these young people say they will do this through their own personal experience. They learn most from "seeing and doing" or even hearing from others about their own authentic experiences of seeing and doing. Rather than waiting until the sunset of their lives, these next gen donors want to actively craft their identities now and actively think about their own legacies.
Bottom line: They are different, more strategic, with a strong desire to be active much earlier in their lives and, as noted at the outset, have the potential to become the most significant philanthropists ever.
We would love to hear any ideas you have for creating/forging relationships with Gen-Xers and Millennials or any examples of personal success with this group.