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Johnson Center report generates national interest

Posted on February 25, 2013


A recent report released by Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy and 21/64is drawing national attention, including coverage of the first-of-its-kind report in the Denver Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The report, which can be found online at, looks at how the major donors of the future are approaching their giving and how it differs — and remains the same — from their parents and grandparents.

The research and information contained in the report has also caught the eye of Andrew Watt, the president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Watt took time to meet staff and researchers from the Johnson Center while in town for a board meeting of the West Michigan chapter of the AFP.

“Philanthropy has evolved dramatically over the past couple of decades, and much of that has to do with changing demographics, technology and heightened interest in philanthropy among younger generations,” Watt said. “We now have a younger group of potential donors who not only want to get significantly engaged with nonprofits, but also who have access to significant amounts of money, something younger donors haven’t always had. These donors are rapidly changing how we look at philanthropy, what philanthropy can accomplish and how it can accomplish those goals.”

The report is the most comprehensive of its kind, drawing from 310 surveys from high-capacity young donors and 30 in-depth individual interviews. Young donors represent the future of philanthropy, but up until now, very little has been known about who the next generation of donors are and what they are interested in. 

Through analysis of the survey responses and dozens of candid statements direct from next-generation donors, the report reveals:

Next-generation donors want meaningful, hands-on engagement with the causes that they care about and want to develop close relationships with the organizations they give to, giving their time and talent as well as their treasure.

Next-generation donors are highly connected with their peers, learning about causes from trusted friends and sharing philanthropic experiences with peer networks.

Next-generation donors seek to maintain the difficult balance of respecting the legacy of previous generations and revolutionizing philanthropy for greater impact, aiming to use new, innovative, even risky strategies to make their giving more effective.

For next-generation donors, philanthropy is a part of who they are; it is not just something they do. Young donors start developing their philanthropic identity from an early age by learning through hands-on experiences and looking to older generations, and they are eager for new personal experiences that will help them learn to be better philanthropists.  

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