Next Gen Donors: Shaping the Future of Philanthropy

GrantCraft is pleased to partner with 21/64 and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University in an analysis of their new research on next generation donors.

A relatively small group of Generation Xers and Millennials will inherit over $40 trillion in wealth, much of that designated for philanthropy. In this first-of-its-kind research, the Johnson Center and 21/64 examined a key segment of the next generation of major donors in the United States. Through a national online survey and in-depth interviews, they explored themes including philanthropic orientation, priorities, strategies, decision-making, and activities. Their report, Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy, is available at

21/64 and the Johnson Center invited GrantCraft to do a parallel analysis of its interviews to draw out the “practical wisdom” of 30 next generation major donors. Next Gen Donors: Shaping the Future of Philanthropy, a GrantCraft companion guide, captures what study participants found to be distinctive about themselves and their peers. It aims to increase understanding and stimulate discussion about Gen X and Millennial major donors — the generations that have the potential to be the most significant philanthropists in history.


  • Hunger for engagement: grantees, families, peers, other funders
  • New ways of learning: ideas, approaches, and people
  • Importance of now: deep interest in applying their skills sooner rather than later

What's in the Guide?

  • In their own words: GrantCraft joined 21/64 and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy in listening to and reflecting upon the voices of a selected group of major donors in their 20s and 30s.
  • Hunger for engagement: In their interviews, study participants expressed a desire to be hands-on philanthropists — with their grant recipients, their approach to issues, their families, their peers, and other funders.
  • New ways of learning: Generation X and Millennial interviewees described generational differences in the ways they learn about new ideas, approaches, and people.
  • Importance of now: This group of next generation donors highlighted their deep interest in helping and applying their skills sooner rather than later.
  • How to use this guide: These starter questions can be used to promote dialogue for audiences including next generation donors; family, community, and private foundations; donor advised funds; philanthropy networks; advisors; and researchers
  • takeaways
    Youth Grantmaking Resources a selection from the field

    The Foundation Center report Scanning the Landscape of Youth Philanthropy: Observations and Recommendations for Strengthening a Growing Field shares that there are many resources that already exist that are useful to youth grantmaking. Here's a roundup of some.

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  • takeaways
    Applications for Grantmaking

    Next gen donors and peer groups: How can we further our exploration of high-engagement philanthropy, expand our new ways of learning, and make the most of this moment?

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  • takeaways

    “In terms of my leadership it matters a lot for me to be able to be and do something with peers and to feel like my voice is valued, and I’m giving something and also continuing to learn new skills.” - Milleanial Grantmaker

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  • takeaways
    Full Selves

    Multiple interviewees focused on their desire to participate as philanthropists as they develop their professional and personal identities.

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  • takeaways
    Connect With People/Social Media

    Another told a story about generational differences in sourcing information. He found it easy to send an email blast to 50 people and follow up with those who replied with something interesting, whereas an older colleague’s method of choice in the same situation was to call 10 people.

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  • takeaways
    Role of Advisors

    Advisors may need to modify their approaches with Gen Xers and Millennials away from a gatekeeping orientation toward one focused on the “curation” of a broader set of resources for their clients:

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  • takeaways
    NextGen Funding

    General Research Takeaways - Millenial Grantmaking Approach:

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  • takeaways
    New Approaches

    When asked how they differ from earlier generations, their responses clustered around three broad themes: a hunger for engagement, new ways of learning, and the importance of now.

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This short piece can be used to promote dialogue among a variety of audiences interested in the priorities, strategies, and activities of next gen donors:

  • Next gen donors and peer groups: How can we further our exploration of high-engagement philanthropy, expand our new ways of learning, and make the most of this moment?
  • Family foundations: Which multi-generational stories ring true for our family foundation? What can we do to promote the growth and development of our own next generation?
  • Community foundations: How can we promote the growth and development of next gen donors as strategic, hands-on philanthropists in our communities?
  • Private foundations: How can we reach out to next gen members of family foundations to collaborate?
  • Donor advised funds: How can we encourage more multi-generational participation in our DAFs? What can we do to encourage next gen donors to create their own DAFs?
  • Regional associations, affinity groups, and other philanthropy networks: How can our networks adapt to the interests and approaches of next gen donors? What can we do to promote their development as strategic philanthropists?
  • Private banks, attorneys, family offices, consultants: How can we improve our services for next generation philanthropists?
  • Researchers: What questions need further investigation?