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As technology, culture and societal norms evolve, the way donors perceive and approach philanthropy changes, too. This report offers a glimpse of how these influences could steer the future of philanthropy and answers questions like: What causes are the most important to address for the future? Who are the changemakers on the forefront of the shifting landscape? And how will they mold the future of the philanthropic sector?
To understand the full picture of philanthropy in America today, Fidelity Charitable conducted an initial survey of 3,055 charitable individuals in March 2020. We then conducted a subsequent survey in January 2021 to detect any shifts in donor attitudes and behaviors related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other events of 2020. What we found illustrates the forces influencing charitable giving and offers an outline of the future. The study underscored the following key takeaways:
Charitable giving is becoming charitable living…
Giving is increasingly integrated into our everyday decisions, and effective philanthropy is more accessible than ever to average donors—with ways to engage at our fingertips 24/7.
...and Millennials are leading the transformation.1
As the next generation of donors, Millennials are pushing philanthropy beyond its traditional boundaries. While they currently only control 5 percent of wealth in the United States,2 their unique attitudes, expectations and approaches to giving back will revolutionize the social sector as they inherit trillions from their Baby Boomer parents in one of the largest intergenerational wealth transfers in modern times.
2020 compelled donors to adapt their approach to giving—and the year could mark a pivotal moment for the future of philanthropy.
While the future of philanthropy generally doesn’t shift in a single year, the events of 2020 had at least a short-term impact on the way donors are currently thinking about and approaching giving.
The social sector has unique opportunities and challenges as donors rethink and revise the ways they give back.
Because it enjoys higher levels of trust, the nonprofit ecosystem as a whole is uniquely positioned to lead the charge on many of the world’s largest issues. However, individual charities must adapt to donors’ changing expectations and preferences in order to remain relevant.
1In this report, the Millennial generation includes individuals approximately ages 21 to 40 (born 1981–2000). Generation X includes individuals approximately ages 41 to 56 (born 1965 –1980). The Baby Boomer generation includes individuals approximately 57 to 75 (born 1946–1964).
2Federal Reserve, Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989, 2021.