New Fidelity Charitable study explores trends in how Americans will give to charity, differences between generations

Donors look beyond nonprofits to businesses, public-private partnerships for solutions to society’s challenges

BOSTON, October 5, 2016 – As charitable giving reaches record heights—topping $1 billion a day in 20151 — Americans' approach to giving and views on how to solve the world’s challenges are changing. Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity, today released its latest study, 2016 Future of Philanthropy, showing important shifts in how donors look at philanthropy and, ultimately, how giving will change over time. The study is based on a survey of more than 3,200 people who give to charity.2

"The desire to give back and make the world better is an inherent part of American culture and consistent with our values," said Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable.

"The vast majority of Americans give to charity. Because of this generosity and the dedication of people working to effect change, the nonprofit community is a powerful force for good. What we see in this study is a significant shift in the way people think about their giving—with changes that will pick up speed as the giving power of Millennials increases in the years ahead," Norley continued.

Donors identify a wide range of pressing issues, but are not particularly optimistic that their giving alone will solve them.

Health and hunger are among the top priorities among a wide range of problems Americans identify as important, and they increasingly think it will take more than just investment in traditional nonprofits to solve them. Less than one-fifth (17%) say that they are "strongly optimistic" that giving alone will lead to fixes for the issues they care most about. They view partnerships between government, business and nonprofits as equally key to developing these solutions. They also think individuals and businesses alike should step up and fund solutions for society’s challenges.

"Donors give for a variety of reasons, some of which are deeply personal," Norley said. "However, to tackle the issues they care about, they increasingly believe in the need to have all hands on deck. Nonprofits, businesses, government, universities, and religious institutions will all need to evolve to meet those changing expectations if they want to keep the support of these individuals."

Key findings on challenges:

  • Top challenges to solve: 39% percent say developing treatment or cure for a disease; 33% say access to basic health services; 38% say hunger and access to nutritious food.
  • Who should do more to fund solutions? 45% say business and 43% say individuals/philanthropy.
  • Who will create the fixes? 39% of donors say nonprofits, but look beyond to public-partnerships (36%), individuals (33%), religious institutions (32%), universities (26%) and business and social enterprises (26% and 24%). They’re least likely to cite government (19%).

Transparency, technology and evolving attitudes toward wealth are reshaping donors’ approaches to giving.

The past 20 years have been a time of rapid change for philanthropy, with 60% of donors citing at least one way that their giving has changed. Donors are more results-focused, with 41% saying they have changed their giving due to increased knowledge about nonprofit effectiveness.

Nearly a third of donors (27%) say that technological advances have changed their giving by providing convenient tools to research, find and fund organizations.

About a fifth (21%) say their giving has been affected by changing views on generational wealth or increased access to charitable planning services or giving vehicles (18%).

Millennials and Baby Boomers are both significant forces in giving today—but as Millennials grow in influence, they will likely transform giving.

Millennials and Baby Boomers agree on the challenges society should address—both prioritize health and hunger issues—but the similarities stop there. For instance, Baby Boomers are more likely to focus on issues in the U.S., while Millennials focus on challenges both at home and abroad.

Millennials also approach giving in fundamentally different ways. Compared to Baby Boomers, Millennials have more readily embraced the trends that define their generation – the adoption of technology, a social approach to donations, and viewing giving more broadly than just traditional donations to charity.

"We see Baby Boomers and Millennials defining two very different approaches to living generously," Norley said. "One is more traditional and locally focused, and the other takes a more expansive view."

Key differences between generations:

  • Global focus: 47% of Millennials are equally concerned about domestic and international issues, compared with 36% of Baby Boomers.
  • Adoption of technology in giving: Compared to Baby Boomers, Millennials are more than twice as likely to have changed their giving approach due to technological advances in giving (49% to 23%).
  • Social giving: A third of Millennials have been influenced by increased opportunities to connect with peers about giving, more than twice the number of Boomers (30% to 11%).
  • Giving differently: Millennials are three times more likely than Boomers to have tried alternative forms of giving, such as choosing to purchase from a company with a social mission or investing for social impact (32% to 14%).

"As we look to the future, all of these trends point to donors becoming more hands on with their giving, not less," Norley said. "Americans will continue to prioritize giving and integrate their approach to philanthropy even more fully into their daily lives. With this focus on effectiveness, they'll become even more thoughtful about where and how they give, driving a need and demand for resources to help them."

For the complete report and additional insights, visit The 2016 Future of Philanthropy.

For media inquiries, please contact Nabil Ashour at 202-378-5617.

1Giving USA 2016 Report

2The 2016 Future of Philanthropy report is based on a 2016 survey conducted among 3,254 adults in the U.S. who have donated to charities and claimed itemized charitable tax deductions on their 2015 tax returns. The study was conducted by Artemis Strategy Group, an independent research firm.

About Fidelity Charitable

Fidelity Charitable is an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 219,000 nonprofit organizations with more than $22 billion in grants. Established in 1991, Fidelity Charitable launched the first national donor-advised fund program. The mission of the organization is to further the American tradition of philanthropy by providing programs that make charitable giving simple, effective, and accessible. For more information about Fidelity Charitable, visit

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