It took many long hours—and hundreds of e-mails—to get to this point, but we finally, officially, proudly launched the Next Gen Donors report at last week’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose. This launch represents the culmination of more than a year of data gathering, analysis, writing, and preparation, all in order to provide first-of-its-kind, much-needed research about the next generation of major donors—a group that just might turn out to be the most significant philanthropists in history.
The Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy program at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy teamed with the experts on multigenerational philanthropy at 21/64 to conduct this study. We were assisted in the effort by partners such as the Council.
We sought insight about Gen X and Gen Y/Millennial donors who have the capacity for significant giving, both now and in the future. We asked questions about how they want to engage as donors, how they are learning about philanthropy, what they are excited about for their future, and how they see themselves as different from previous generations of donors.
The report and other information on the project are available at our website. We discovered many intriguing things about these fascinating young donors, all detailed there and described during our sessions at the conference.
For instance, while they are very eager to change how philanthropy operates, they don’t reject the past. They value family legacy, even as they are eager to take risks with new innovations and approaches. They want to be engaged in more meaningful, hands-on ways than traditional grantmaking has. And they want to be more intensively peer-oriented in their philanthropy—to give with, share information among, and learn from the experiences of their peers. In short, the challenge facing Next Gen donors is to find a way to respect legacy while also revolutionizing philanthropy.
But releasing the report, launching the website, and presenting findings in two sessions at the conference is just the beginning of our planned efforts to make this research widely used and useful to the field of family philanthropy. We want to start a conversation about #nextgendonors that continues for months to come.
The response from the audiences at last week’s conference confirms our expectation that people concerned with family philanthropy—from donors to staff to advisers to community foundations—are hungry for research about this important group. People have been asking us for more details from the study, and some are looking to convert this information into tips and guidance to meet their particular challenge in working with these Gen X and Millennial donors—either as members of their own families, trustees they serve, or new donors they want to engage and assist.
This is why we’ve thought of this initial launch as just the start of a conversation. Now we ask for ideas, assistance, and participation to help continue the #nexgendonors conversation and take the next steps. Please go to our website to offer your own reactions, experiences, and new ideas.
Michael Moody is Frey Chair for Family Foundations and Philanthropy, Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.