Apra Reviews: 'Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving'


What I’m Reviewing:

"Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving" by Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody (Wiley, 2017) 

How I Learned About It:

In the course of researching the giving trends of younger, up-and-coming donors, I read another review of "Generation Impact" that piqued my interest and decided to pick up the book. Many in prospect development are searching for methods to engage younger, promising donors who display interest but aren’t exactly hitting their stride regarding liquidity. Also, as a millennial, I’m self-obsessed enough to be intrigued by the philanthropic community’s research into my generation. 

Where You Can Find It

Online booksellers, notably the authors’ website: https://2164.net/generation-impact/


In "Generation Impact," Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody, who serve as a philanthropy advisor/consultant and scholar, respectively, present demographic research and case studies on the philanthropic trends and preferences of millennial donors (born between 1980-1995), who they also refer to as the “Do Something” generation. The authors’ research began in 2011 on people with the potential for high-level giving in the age range of 21-40. They ultimately surveyed 310 individuals, 75 of whom were then interviewed. 

These case studies of millennial philanthropists featured — including Hannah Quimby, whose parent Roxanne co-founded Burt’s Bees; Hadi Partovi, a self-made tech founder and investor; and John Rutherford Seydel III, a grandchild of CNN founder Ted Turner — are used to illustrate the broad theories advanced by the authors concerning millennials' philanthropic trends and their generational inclination toward total holistic involvement with their chosen causes. 

Millennial donors are found to be open to new methods of giving, such as microfinance, mobile or online technologies, or via an LLC. The data debunk certain stereotypes about millennials, most notably that they are the “Selfie Generation”: entitled, narcissistic and obsessed with status. Instead, millennial donors are found to be socially aware and engaged, and exploring new social causes, but remaining engaged in small, local communities — especially those where their legacy wealth was founded.

The authors present giving trends among millennials and methods for nonprofits to effectively manage the donors' increasing engagement. Millennials want to deploy “every tool in the toolbox,” a phrase repeated by the authors and in the donor case studies. Millennials seek to give not just of their wealth, but of their time, talent and networks. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Millennial donors expect high engagement — they want a relationship with a nonprofit, not a receipt. Personalization and interaction are an expectation, not a perk. Nonprofits must navigate between providing this enhanced donor experience without demeaning their mission and constituents. As a prospect researcher, I plan to delve into a potential donor’s history of crowdfunding and online fundraising participation for indicators of philanthropic interest. I also intend to advocate for big picture cultivation strategy — beyond a monetary gift, how can this prospect contribute to our overall mission? Can they advocate for us? Provide advice on my organization’s pain points?
  • Millennials want to make ethical investments in nonprofits and to feel that they are giving in a holistic way to effect great change. This behavior is juxtaposed with the “gala” giving trend, wherein donors give large gifts toward splashy events or naming opportunities yet aren’t overly involved in the management or outcomes of their donations. Educate millennial donors about your mission and how it’s accomplished most effectively by your organization. Discussing the details of infrastructure update schedules may seem boring to some donors, but may instill in the millennial donor an appreciation for how they can best help your organization flourish, even in the most quotidian ways.
  • Millennial and Generation Z (those born between 1995-2015) philanthropists are comfortable with nonstandard forms of philanthropy, like microfinance and text-to-give. Nonprofits are wise to diversify the ways that donors can contribute. Next steps could include devising a strategy with gift processing and frontline colleagues for short, number, dynamic giving campaigns using newer forms of payment, such as Venmo, Apple Pay Cash or Square Cash, and contactless credit card payment systems currently and creatively in use by fundraising operations in the U.K. 

If I could interview the authors, I would ask…

Goldseker and Moody's findings about millennial philanthropy are based on data collected from U.S. millennial donors, 95.6% of whom identify as Caucasian; nine years after the research began and two years after the publication of the book, I’d like to know more about global giving trends among both domestic and international millennial philanthropists, especially considering the globalization of business and social networks. In a related manner, what has been the impact of new technologies, like crypto currencies, on millennial philanthropy and investing? Finally, I’m interested in how the authors’ advice and theories are being applied in real-world, nonprofit fundraising settings. 

Would you like to submit an Apra Review? Reviews can focus on books, podcasts, videos, news articles and more. Reach out to Connections managing editor, Kristin Fields, at kfields@aprahome.org to share your ideas. 


This article relates to the Prospect Research domain in the Apra Body of Knowledge.

Millennials are getting involved in philanthropy through collective giving – check out this webinar, Collective Giving: Philanthropy as a Team Sport to learn more.

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