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Next Gen Donors & the Impact Revolution

Highlights from our conversation with the authors of Generation Impact


May 15, 2018

By Lauren Domino, Director, Philanthropic Services


Over the next 40 years, $59 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) will be passed down across generations, with most of this concentrated in the hands of a relatively small group of wealthy families. So what does this massive shift in resources mean for philanthropy and our nonprofit community? As Millennials and Gen Xers from 21 to 40 take the reins, what will drive their giving? It can be summed up in one word: impact.

Seattle Foundation partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to host a gathering with authors Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody for an engaging conversation about their new book, Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving. The book features 13 first-person narratives from high capacity next gen donors such as Hadi Partovi (Code.org founder), Hannah Quimby (Burt’s Bees family), and Justin Rockefeller (family legacy), as well as findings from a broader set of interviews and surveys of high net donors in their 20’s and 30’s.

Sharna Goldseker and Mina Kao

Sharna Goldseker, co-author of Generation Impact, and Mina, a member of Seattle Foundation’s Youth Grantmaking Board

Goldseker and Moody said we should all be prepared for an “Impact Revolution” in philanthropy. Next gen donors are acutely focused on impact – they want to make a meaningful difference on our world’s toughest challenges, and they are willing to employ new approaches and multiple levers to achieve this. Though the issue areas haven’t shifted much (both older generations and millennials rate education and basic needs as top priorities), next gen donors are seeking out an expanded philanthropic toolkit. Beyond traditional check writing to 501c3 organizations, next gen donors want to utilize a range of approaches and vehicles such as impact investing, socially responsible investing, B-Corporations, donor advised funds, and new structures like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s charitable LLC model.

Millennials and younger Gen Xers are the “Do Something” generation – folks who have grown up with volunteerism and who prioritize a life of purpose. They are looking for authentic relationships with nonprofit organizations that are highly aligned with the impact they want to see and create in the world. In addition to time, talent and treasure, next gen donors want to leverage their ties, engaging their peers for strategic support far beyond the “You give to my org, and I’ll give to yours,” mindset.

What might this mean for nonprofits looking to engage next gen donors?

“These very hands-on donors might be a pain in the neck to work with. But if you can engage their talents and passion in meaningful ways, they’re going to go deeper and engage longer with you as an organization, and will be more likely to commit substantial resources over the long term,” Moody said. “They probably won’t be satisfied just serving on the party planning committee.”

Generation Impact concludes with a set of takeaways to help guide nonprofits and next gen donors in developing genuine partnerships that seek meaningful results.

Whether you’re considering how to engage the next generation of your family or paving your own way in the world of philanthropy, it helps to have a partner in this work. Seattle Foundation is a leader in the field of multi-gen philanthropic advising, and we have a range of services to support you in advancing your philanthropic and community impact goals. Please reach out to our Philanthropic Services team to learn more at 206-515-2111 or philanthropicservices@seattlefoundation.org.

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