Reading the Generational Tea Leaves:
What You Can Do Today to Reach
the Donors of Tomorrow

Ken Marotte Senior Writer AC Fitzgerald Author

Ken Marotte, Senior Writer and Managing Director

This year, millennials are expected to surpass the baby boomers as America’s largest living generation. This changing of the guard will have a profound impact on your work and mine. What do we know about the philanthropists of the future (not only millennials, but Gen Xers, too)? How will their goals and motivations affect charitable giving? How can your group leverage these changes?

I had the good fortune of speaking recently with Dr. Michael Moody, a scholar with the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. Moody occupies the world’s first-ever endowed chair for family philanthropy, and is a recognized expert on generational attitudes toward giving.

Some of his key insights along with helpful recommendations:

  • Timing: Next generation (“next gen”) donors want to be involved in philanthropy now rather than when they retire. Even if their parents still direct most of the family’s giving, engage these young people now in a meaningful way.
  • Approach: Next gen donors want to give holistically—not just treasure, but time and talent, as well. They view the ‘spray, pray, walk away’ approach to philanthropy as outdated and ineffective. Welcome these up-and-coming donors, be open to their unique ideas, and create a menu of areas where they can roll up their sleeves and help advance your work.
  • Target issues: Next gen donors generally favor the same causes as previous generations (e.g., arts, education, policy). But they may support other organizations that approach those causes in different ways. Sit down with your next gen donors, get their feedback on your organization’s activities, remain open to suggestions, and show them why supporting your work is their best option for achieving their long-term vision.
  • Goals: The rising generation desires impact that is focused and visible. Grandiose plans with marginal or unverifiable impact are nonstarters. Pitch real, complex needs, and be sure that your solution – if successful – will move the needle in a compelling, unmistakable way.

With each passing day, Next Gen becomes ‘Now Gen.’ Earmark some time at your upcoming board meetings and staff retreats to discuss ways your nonprofit can tap this enormous potential. Read up on the topic and reach out to AC Fitzgerald for a surefire plan that sets you on the road to success.

Ken Marotte serves as Senior Writer and Managing Director at AC Fitzgerald. He writes powerful fundraising pieces for the firm’s clients, and uses his skills in process analysis and improvement to strengthen our day-to-day operations.

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