It can be said that nonprofit organizations are based upon the idea of philanthropy, in the sense of caring for, nourishing, improving, and enhancing the quality of life for human beings. But who funds these organizations? Who cares to be a part of and continue the work of an organization that does not make profit in such a money-driven world?

Stats people

A report on wealthy Next Generation donors from 21/64 and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy seeks to answer these questions. On something no one has researched in depth in the past, we can only wonder about the hands we are leaving our world’s future in, and what they will do for it. Two generational cohorts examined in this report were divided as follows: “Gen X” (born 1964-1980) and “Gen Y/Millennial” (born 1981-2000). These cohorts were found to have an unprecedented amount of wealth and will wield more philanthropic power than any previous generations. Why?

This study listened to members of the two cohorts with ages ranging from 21-40. A national online survey (310 total responses) and in-depth interviews (30 totals) revealed what makes this generation so powerful. The Key Findings were divided into four categories:

  • Driven by Values, Not Valuables: What separates this generation a part from the past, is that many of these next gen donors come from families with wealth and resources, rather than families struggling through world wars and great economic depressions. The members of these generations are also experiencing a world that has more rapid social change than ever before. Rather than taking their privileges and legacy for granted, these people learned from their parents and grandparents and the hardships their elders faced to give them easier lives. “They are mindful of the privilege they have inherited or that comes with the wealth they are creating.” These people seek ways to honor their family legacy while assessing the daily resources they need. They fund causes that support their own values as well as those of their families. They want to give as their families have, but they also want to make sweeping advancements in new manners within this changing world. 

ValuesVS  valuables

  • Impact First: They intend to change how decisions are made and how research and due diligence are conducted, utilizing multiple sources for information and all of the “tools in the toolbox,” as one of them describes it. They see previous generations as more motivated by a desire for recognition or social requirements, while they see themselves as focused on impact, first and foremost. They want impact they can see, and they want to know that their own involvement has contributed to that impact. They want to use any necessary strategies, assets, and tools – new or old – for greater impact.


  • Time, Talent, Treasure, and Ties: These next gen donors don’t just want to give a little here and there, they 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 the organizations or causes they support; they want to listen and offer their own professional or personal talents, all in order to solve problems together with those whom they support. They have grown up volunteering, and they still want to offer their time, but in more meaningful ways, not just holding a seat on a gala organizing committee.” In these times where social media is thriving and very few people do not have smart phones, the next gen donors are more highly networked with peers than ever before. They learn from their peers while sharing their own ideas, which can be done in a matter of minutes in the cyber world. These donors believe that collaboration makes them all better and extends their impact to places they could not reach alone. 



  • Crafting Their Philanthropic Identities: As much as they discuss what and how they think about philanthropy and what they definitely want to do when they take over, these next gen major donors are still figuring out who they will be as donors. 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 to decide who they are as philanthropists and what legacies they want to leave, these next gen major donors actively craft their identities now and actively think about their own legacies.


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So…what’s next? No one can be sure, but with people like this who care so much, we can feel assured that the future will be bright.



You can visit to learn more about this research.