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Philanthropy by the Generation by Kent Vanderwood

What’s different between the generations when it comes to Philanthropy?

When it comes to philanthropy, here are some important questions to consider:

  • Do different generations think differently when it comes to giving?
  • Does the same thing that motivates a boomer, motivate a millennial?
  • How do we adjust our approach?

I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) event where the speakers were a father-daughter team who represent a local business and family foundation. Grandfather has passed on, so they continue to oversee giving from the foundation today. Their charge was to discuss how they respond to giving requests and what motivates them to give to local causes. The results were interesting, to say the least. Their premise was that it does make a difference.

Over-simplified, perhaps, but this is what they shared:

Generation 1

The grandfather started the company post WW2; as success came, his generosity became known by all; so, if you had a relationship with him, you could probably walk in to his office and get a donation for your cause; “needs” matter and success stories were welcome.

Generation 2

Father continues a history of giving but he is becoming more interested in “systematic change.” He wants to see the needle move forward; are we making progress? Show me your cause (or mission or organization) is sustainable and making a difference, and I will probably give.

Generation 3

The granddaughter/daughter continues the history of philanthropy, but is more focused on outcomes; “How is this cause making the world (or city, or lives) better?” Of importance here is collaboration between agencies and organizations and “smart” use of resources.

All of these generations will give and want to give. The key is to make sure you know what is important to each individual donor or donor group.

  • What makes them excited?
  • What is their “hot button?”
  • What questions will they have before writing the check?

This can be done through the donor cultivation process if you do the proper research, pay close attention to what they say and spend plenty of time “romancing” them before making the request. Don’t rush the process. It will be worth the effort.


Kent Vanderwood is the Vice President at The Timothy Group. Kent offers clients over 35 years of non-profit experience including teaching, administrative, consulting, and directorships. His passion for seeing Christian stewardship principles applied in a systematic way helps the non-profit organization or ministry be successful in fulfilling its mission.


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