A Look at Generational Differences in Giving

How do different age groups view philanthropy?

How do giving patterns vary across the generations? How is the idea of “giving back” changing as younger generations take their place in society? In its Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2018, Giving USA explores these questions.

Generational Giving Patterns

Citing a study presented by the Blackbaud Institute written by Sea Change Strategies and research provided by Edge Research, The Next Generation of American Giving provides insights into the giving patterns of the five current generations in America:

Matures, the elder generation, was previously the dominating force in charitable giving. But this group has declined in numbers and the total amounts they contribute are now lower than the Baby Boomers and Generation X. However, they still contribute more per person than any other group.

Baby Boomers, those entering retirement, contributed 41% of all money donated by individuals in 2018. They are also the only group that has actually increased the percentage of members contributing since 2013. At 74 million members, they continue to be the largest generation in the country.

Generation X members are approaching their prime giving years and contributed more overall than the Matures in 2018. In addition, 20% of them stated they plan to increase their giving in the coming year, compared to 12% of Baby Boomers and 9% of Matures.

Millennials are currently focused on career and family. Even so, their share of total dollars contributed has climbed by 3 percentage points since 2013 to 14%.

Generation Z is just beginning to enter the work force and it’s too early to tell what their giving patterns are.

New Book Explores the Future of Giving

Looking toward the future, Giving USA shared insights from Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody’s new book Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving. The authors explore how Generation X and Millennials are reimagining what it means to give back to society.

During the coming years, an expected $59 trillion in wealth will be transferred from older generations to younger generations, making Generation X and Millennials the most significant philanthropists in history.

These two generations are significantly different from their predecessors. They have a greater sense of urgency and are using their resources to contribute to society earlier in their lives. They are also blurring the lines between the public, private and nonprofit sectors—through their work, their investments and their contributions. For instance, an individual may work in the public sector, invest in socially responsible companies and donate to charitable organizations. This makes it difficult to track their philanthropy with traditional metrics.

Goldseker and Moody explain in their book that engaging these younger donors will require new approaches and creative thinking on the part of nonprofits. For instance, members of these generations are more likely to want hands-on involvement with a charity than to have their name on a building.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you see differences in how the various generations interact with your nonprofit? What patterns are emerging? What creative ways are you using to connect with the younger generations? Have you found some approaches work better than others? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear your insights.

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