As the guest editor of the December issue of Alliance magazine and author of the “Global ‘next gen’ trends” article, Jason Franklin has astutely introduced us to what next gen donors value and what they are doing differently. From focusing on root causes to having more public conversations about giving, it’s clear that this next generation is building off of the strengths of past philanthropy while paving its own approach. Through trends shared in Jason’s article and from my research as a part of the GrantCraft team, I think we can sum up the mentality of this group of donors with one word: connection.
Next gen donors crave connection. They want to be connected to and feel confident about the staff of programs before funding, which often means conducting site visits, volunteering, or having conversations with those at different levels within the organization. They want to feel connected to innovative strategies; problems aren’t longstanding because they’re easy to solve, so they ask questions about what hasn’t worked in the past and how a given approach builds off of that learning. They want to feel connected to past giving by understanding the how and the why of past family or issue-area giving.
Connection comes through active participation in the process of philanthropy. I spoke with one impressive teenage donor who is on the junior board at the Tarsadia Foundation who shared that she likes being a part of the existing grantmaking process, but also values the opportunity to give other board members a new perspective on the issues they’ve always cared about. She brings to their attention organizations that she has noticed making an impact — organizations which sometimes take a different approach from those already being funded.
What excites me most about the connection mentality is that it’s not just held by the next generation; it’s slowly seeping through the siloed layers of our sector and shifting the practices of veteran funders, too. Through the rise of giving circles, MOOCs, and peer learning communities, funders are increasingly encouraged to explore more meaningful relationships to their work. Through GrantCraft, funders young and seasoned alike share their wisdom to connect with the experiences of other funders and grow learning in the philanthropy community.
As Jason aptly remarked in his article, next generation donors are integrating philanthropy into their daily lives in a way that blurs the lines between vocation, social activities, and charitable efforts. It’s a mindset driven largely by connection, and I have a lot of optimism that this mindset will be a thread that builds philanthropy’s impact across generations.