Will the next generation give to the same causes as the previous generation? Do charities have to change their strategies in order to stay in the game? These are two important questions. If the target group changes, so should the organization. Right? Yes, probably but in which way? Change is complex and let’s be honest we are not a big fan of change. It is important to come into contact with your target group, in this case the new generation of givers. Ask them about their demands, wishes and dreams.
Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series. Each series will have one central subject; the subject of this month is ‘A changing donor’. A series consists out of several separate blogs. This is the fifth blog of the ‘A changing donor’ series. For the first blog of the series click here. For the second blog of the series click here. For the third, about the three basics of philanthropy, click here. For the fourth blog, about the importance of trust and building a lasting relationship with donors, click here.
Generation impact: making a difference
Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody (2017) termed the new generation of big donors: generation impact. They describe that the new generation of givers is motivated by a new definition of succes: impact. We talked about impact in the second blog of this serie. Donors who care about impact want to make a difference with their donation. While the previous generation also cared about the impact of their gift, other motives such as following norms (you should give) and reputation (not giving might damage my reputation) were more profound.
Less religious and less pro-social: less generous
The philanthropic world is experiencing an overall participation decrease: less individuals donate. Researchers from the Giving in the Netherlands note that charitable organizations have seen a decrease in donations over the past years. Using longitudinal data of Dutch donors, Bekkers, de Wit and Felix (2017) explored the changing donation trend over the past two decades. The researchers connect the decreasing generosity to four hypotheses: less religious, increasing education level, declining pro-social values, decreasing positive attitudes to charities.
The researchers found support for the idea that a partial explanation behind the decreasing generosity is related to individuals becoming less religious; as it explained 38% of the giving trend over the past 20 years. The second biggest explanation was the declining pro-social values, explaining 15%. Also, it appears that the increasing level of education is connected to the declining generosity. Another interesting finding is that a small group of generous donors is responsible for a large part of the total donation amount. The researchers conclude that if this group of donors was absent, the donation amount would have been the same in 2015 as in 1995. Naturally, the same donation amount as two decades ago cannot compete in the current economy.
Religion and impact, what is the connection?
You are likely to wonder: why are we talking about less religious individuals and impact? Well, the lower levels of religion likely contributed to the increasing focus on making an impact. Earlier generations went to religious houses and functioned in religious communities, there they learned strict social rules: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God“. Lose translation: be kind and generous.
It is no surprise that if fewer individuals are weekly (if not daily) exposed to a environment where these kind of norms are an essential part of being part of the group, that individuals are becoming less pro-social and generous. So, what does this mean. Well we can expect that the new (less pro-social and less generous) generation is driven by another motive (next to following social norms and caring about their reputation): impact. There is the connection: (1) lower levels of religion likely contributed to a decrease in pro-social values and a decrease in generosity, (2) the new generation is (increasingly) driven by impact.
Same case different way
The next step consists out of figuring out if this group driven by new motives is interested in the same causes as previous generation. Charities have expressed their concerns about this: is the new generation ging to give to the same giving generation and organizations? Remember from the third blog that we distinguish between eight donation categories. According to the findings of Goldseker and Moody (2017): the new generation interested in the same donation categories and social problems as the previous generation. Does this mean that charities do not have to change at all? Well not quite. The researchers also describe that while the new generation cares about the same donation categories, they do want to change how we give.
Let’s stop this blog with the headline of the following blog: Next generation, next step: retool how we give. The philanthropic world is experiencing an overall participation decrease: less individuals donate. We can expect that the new (less pro-social and less generous) generation is driven by another motive (next to following social norms and caring about their reputation): impact.It should be apparent that charities should change a couple of things, one of them the way donors give. The need for a change should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity. More about this in the next blog! If you want to know more, stay tuned
Goldseker, S., Moody, M. (2017). Generation Impact: How next gen donors are revolutionizing giving. John Wiley & Son, Icnc., Hoboken, New Jersey: United States.