I’d like to see media spotlight the newest generation of philanthropists as increasingly young, tech-savvy, and value driven.

As the holiday season ends and individuals and organizations begin to reflect on their resolutions for the new year, there is no better subject to reflect on than the future of philanthropy in the 21st century. One of my favorite moments in the first Avengers movie is when Steve Rogers (Captain America) asks Tony Stark who he is underneath the Iron Man suit. Stark promptly answers, “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.” It’s a funny moment but one that emphasizes the traditional, media-driven image of a philanthropist as older, well-established, and wealthy. Philanthropist is often a title reserved for those individuals whose multi-million-dollar donations appear on the cover of Time magazine and Good Morning America. While we’d be remiss to acknowledge the generosity of that particular subset of people, I’d like to see media spotlight the newest generation of philanthropists as increasingly young, tech-savvy, and value driven.


The ways we give will have been ingrained in us from the time that we relied on minimum wage weekend jobs and allowance installments.

It’s essential that non-profits and other charitable organizations understand what drives Generation Z because we are the future benefactors of the philanthropic world. In the 2018 WeRGenZ Holiday Shopping Survey, a whopping 75% of youth between 13 and 22 years old planned on giving their time, talent and treasure to charitable causes this year. Today, we are generous albeit constrained by our means, but that won’t be true forever. As we get older and accumulate wealth, the amount we give will undoubtedly increase, but the ways we give will have been ingrained in us from the time that we relied on minimum wage weekend jobs and allowance installments. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Generation Z is that we are value and impact-driven. We choose causes and organizations that align with the values that we hold closest to us. Although we evaluate the goals of an organization, we also evaluate their leadership and integrity. It’s important that an organization accomplishes its goals with integrity and accountability to actors other than its own brand.

The ways we give will have been ingrained in us from the time that we relied on minimum wage weekend jobs and allowance installments…Although we evaluate the goals of an organization, we also evaluate their leadership and integrity. It’s… Click To Tweet Being bombarded by negative news every moment via social media, tv, and traditional news outlets make us especially appreciative of organizations that can prove that they’ve made a dent in the world outside our front door. Click To Tweet

We, as a generation, are impact driven. Being bombarded by negative news every moment via social media, tv, and traditional news outlets make us especially appreciative of organizations that can prove that they’ve made a dent in the world outside our front door. It isn’t about creating miracles or neatly tying up complex issues with a bow. But since we were children, we’ve been taught to set goals according to the SMART method – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timebound. Our perception of organizations whose goals and impact can be measured in this way is much more positive than organizations with lofty goals and little to show for it. We also look for organizations that are forward-thinking, that envision tomorrow’s problems and are already searching for solutions. We want change that is sustainable, and as such, we understand the value of charitable organizations, but we are increasingly looking for chances to enact systemic change.

Since we were children, we’ve been taught to set goals according to the SMART method – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timebound. Our perception of organizations whose goals and impact can be… Click To Tweet

Since we were children, we’ve been taught to set goals according to the SMART method – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timebound. Our perception of organizations whose goals and impact can be measured in this way is much more positive than organizations with lofty goals and little to show for it.

LEARNING TO BE GENEROUS WITH APPS

The first time that I donated on my own wasn’t by mail, it was online.

As a child, I remember watching my mother write her checks at the end of the year to various philanthropic organizations. These organizations were the same organizations that we had volunteered at as a family throughout the year. It wasn’t just a check in an envelope because I could see exactly who would open the check and who would be impacted by it. For me, names and stories were superimposed over the number on the check, and that made all the difference. The first time that I donated on my own wasn’t by mail, it was online. But just as before, the benefactor of my donation was a homeless shelter that I’d volunteered and worked at for two previous summers. Generation Z gives where they serve. We are much more likely to support organizations that we can put a face to.

The first time that I donated on my own wasn’t by mail, it was online. Click To Tweet
Generation Z gives where they serve. We are much more likely to support organizations that we can put a face to. Click To Tweet

Perhaps the most obvious departure from previous generations can be observed in how we give. The internet, apps, and social media have opened up a plethora of giving avenues that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. It means that we give from our college dorms, during the bus ride to work, before practice, and anywhere else with a wireless connection. I get a text from Freddie – an automated messaging system – every day reminding me of ways that I can give, both monetarily and otherwise. My Amazon account is set up to send a portion of my purchase to the homeless shelter I worked at during high school, and my Lyft account is set up to round up all of my rides and give the remaining change to a hospital that my grandmother was treated at. Giving is a very real and constant part of my daily life. Although my contribution is limited by the reality of being a sophomore in college with an on-campus job that barely pays for groceries, these little things are training me to be generous as I get older and move on to higher tax brackets.

We give from our college dorms, during the bus ride to work, before practice, and anywhere else with a wireless connection. Click To Tweet

WHAT WORKS FOR GENZ

The problem of donor fatigue is not unique to Generation Z, but as charitable organizations looks towards the future, they should be mindful of the new dimensions that the age of technology adds to this struggle. For non-profits, the challenge of increasing donations and donor pools is always compounded by the challenge of expressing need on the behalf of marginalized groups without denying agency. We are surrounded by a dizzying amount of bad news and because of that, the organization that can add a little levity and hope to my day is the same organization that will earn my time or resources. However, even a positive message of agency and hope will fall on deaf ears if not packaged correctly. Snail mail and spamming our email or timeline are some of the easiest ways to exhaust Gen Z’s spirit of generosity. We are a generation that moves based on group momentum – when we see the people that we admire and trust moving on a particular issue, we are inspired to do the same. By tapping into preexisting group networks and setting up personal relationships that can span decades, non-profits can begin to break down the problem of donor fatigue.

Philanthropist isn’t a title reserved for those who can make million-dollar tax write-offs to whatever organization they want. It is also a title that we grow into as we choose the causes and organizations that matter to us and contribute… Click To Tweet

We can and should train our youth to be generous with what they have. Philanthropist isn’t a title reserved for those who can make million-dollar tax write-offs to whatever organization they want. It is also a title that we grow into as we choose the causes and organizations that matter to us and contribute in whatever way we can.

For more information for some top corporate brands that give back, apps that teach and make giving easy for GenZ check out our related infographic.

Let us know what brands you admire for their culture of giving back and doing good and follow us on social media @WeRGenZ