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What Gen Z’s Giving Style Can Tell Parents

A quill, representing The Signatry

The Signatry

January 16, 2024

Generational differences can present challenges for families in almost any area of life; family generosity is no exception.

Members of Gen Z (those born in 1997 – 2012) are entering young adulthood and their early careers, beginning to make financial decisions for themselves. Many of the ways Gen Z prefers to spend and donate their money differ from older generations.

When practicing generosity as a family, parents can connect with their Gen Z children by finding ways to work together in giving. Some of the trends we see in Gen Z’s giving styles may provide ideas for how to find a shared passion and how to create a family giving plan.

1. Look for causes close to your community.

Teens and young adults are more likely to give spontaneously based on an encounter or a need they learn about online.

Sensitivity to the most visible needs is a great place to start a conversation about the causes your family can share a passion for. A cause close to your community might be nearby geographically—for example, homelessness in your city—or through an identity or experience—for example, support for families experiencing medical crises. Any need you encounter frequently is a good candidate for a conversation about where your shared passions lie.

2. Think systemically about the cause.

Gen Z givers often look at issues by looking at the systems and other contributing factors that shape those issues.

Once your family has identified a cause you might like to support together, you can dig deeper into all the different forces that might hurt or hold back the people you’d like to serve. We believe our call as Christians is to solve the world’s greatest problems; understanding the relationships between some of the world’s greatest problems can help us find the right solutions. This is another opportunity for great family conversations about what you learn.

3. Find a nonprofit close to the root of the problem.

Increasingly, young adults prefer to support small and/or local nonprofits run by people close to the issue, rather than large organizations that may operate far away.

It will require more research to find a small nonprofit that works effectively in your community. The search process can be a family project of its own. You can connect with your Gen Z children over their desire to listen to local, perhaps underrepresented voices for solutions to the problems you both care about. You can keep learning together from the people you want to serve.

4. Give with trust.

Trust-based philanthropy is gaining popularity among younger, high-net-worth donors. Where traditional philanthropists might give a restricted donation or grant with a list of requirements, younger generations prefer to give based on trust in a nonprofit’s values, not a set of outcomes.

No matter your family’s net worth, you and your children can explore this style of giving by choosing a nonprofit you trust. Discuss the values you might want to see and try giving unrestricted donations to a general operating fund rather than a specific project.

5. Give and live for the cause.

Gen Z is often called “the activist generation” because of their commitment to fighting for causes they believe in. This means getting creative about finding and pursuing multiple solutions to the problem. Your family can connect with this passion by not just giving to your chosen cause but living for it.

Some of the most common ways young adults use all their resources to support their cause include:

  • Using social media to raise awareness of the issue and how people can help.
  • Volunteering with local nonprofits working on the cause.
  • Buying products from companies that support the cause—through nonprofit partnership or socially responsible business practices.
  • Investing in companies that support the cause.
  • Giving through tax-advantageous tools like donor advised funds to maximize each donation.

Family generosity is a wonderful way to grow closer as a family by pursuing common values and goals. Gen Z’s tendency to approach charitable giving holistically is a great opportunity for older generations to connect with their passions and work together toward creative solutions.

Wondering where to start?

It’s not always easy to find a cause everyone in your family cares about. Here are 3 questions you can use to get the conversation going.

3 Steps to Choose a Family Cause

About The Signatry

A quill, representing The Signatry

The Signatry seeks to inspire and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity across generations. Through donor advised funds and other innovative tools and resources, families are empowered to live generously, modeling biblical values for future generations and making a greater impact for causes that align with their passions. Since its founding in 2000, The Signatry has facilitated sending over $4 billion to organizations around the world that are dedicated to solving the world’s greatest problems.

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