The last few decades of charitable giving have been driven in large part by donors in the Baby Boomer generation and older, with Gen X donors becoming bigger players in recent years.1 While these generations still collectively contribute around three fourths of annual charitable gifts in the United States, the latest data shows that millennials are beginning to emerge as a significant donor base.
Like Gen X before them, many millennial households feature dual employment, children involved in many extracurricular activities, and outstanding debt from higher education and housing. This generally means they lead extremely busy lives and tend to have less disposable income to use for charitable giving.2 However, The Signatry has seen encouraging growth in giving from this demographic. Over the last 3 years, we have seen:
- 25% annual growth in funds opened by millennials
- Millennials grant dollars out at nearly 3x the industry average
- 36% of millennial funds are actively invested in The Signatry’s biblically responsible investment pools that support organizations making values-aligned impact
- 24% annual growth in asset-based gifts of publicly traded securities, with over 100 gifted last year alone.
This generation’s growing charitable influence is not only limited to financial gifts. They show a strong commitment to making a difference and actively seek out non-traditional ways to do so. Here are a few of the most notable millennial trends in philanthropy today:
- Focused on Issues, Not Organizations
Their giving is primarily driven by issues rather than organizations.3 They want to see problems solved and will partner with whoever they believe is doing the most effective work. They are also more likely to engage in impact investing as a way to align their dollars with their values and support organizations on the frontlines of issues.
- Give Smaller, Spontaneous Gifts
They are much more likely to make unplanned gifts, even to organizations they may not have previously known about before hearing about a giving opportunity. They are less likely to have a giving budget or a set plan for giving, so gifts tend to be more conservative in size and based on emotional response to a need.
- Value Voice and Time as much as Money
Less than a third of millennials say financial gifts are their greatest form of impact, compared to over 50% of older generations. Millennials are much more likely to believe in the power to create change through volunteering, public advocacy, social media, and word of mouth.
- Willing to Collaborate to Maximize Giving
They are more likely to use collaborative, impact-maximizing tools such as donor advised funds, giving circles, crowdfunding platforms, and workplace giving structures.
The bottom line is this: Millennials, although presently a relatively small part of the charitable giving pie, are looking for ways to make an impact sooner than later and deserve investment in them now. Parents and grandparents of these world-changers should seek to impart values and encourage giving. Employers should provide creative opportunities for impact, such as serving local communities or matching charitable gifts. Charities and advisors should build intentional plans around developing relationships for partnership now and down the road and leverage millennials’ propensity for promoting their work to others.
As each generation takes center stage, values like love, generosity, and compassion remain in the fabric of people. It is important that we learn how to work together and empower one another to live out these values according to our strengths.
1- Blackbaud Institute: The Next Generation of American Giving
2- Pew Research Center: Millennial life: How Young Adulthood Today Compares with Prior Generations
3- Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households
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