3 Insights from Giving USA’s ‘Giving By Generation’ Special Report
Nonprofits continue to focus their sights on baby boomers, but as the greatest wealth transfer in history is underway, nonprofits will need to adjust their thinking, futureproof their donor databases and find ways to connect with younger generations. After all, the wealth transfer has been estimated at $30 trillion.
“Giving by Generation,” a special report from Giving USA and Dunham+Company, gained insights into millennial donors in 2016. Six years later, in 2022, the research team revisited its efforts, adding Gen Z (1997-2012) for the first time in the recently released report.
In general, volunteer hours decreased across generations — particularly among baby boomers (1946-1964) — while millennials (1981-1996) gave significantly more (40%) in 2022 over 2016. On the other hand, both Gen X (1965-1980) and boomer donors decreased giving by 4% and 12%, respectively. This allowed millennials to surpass Gen X donors as the generation with the second highest annual giving amount in 2022.
Digging deeper into the generational divides discovered in the report, here are three more interesting insights.
1. Donors Have Become More Receptive to Giving by Text Message
In 2016, only 1% of donors indicated they gave a gift by text. That now has jumped to 7%. Millennials and Gen Xers match that average. Gen Z outpaces that with 13%, while 3% of boomers have given via text.
“As one would expect, the younger the donor, the more likely they are to respond to a text from a charity,” according to the report. “However, except for boomer donors, all other donor generations show an increase in the likelihood to respond compared to 2016.”
Additionally, all generations are more receptive to monthly texts from nonprofits, with 45% welcoming them — a 28-point increase. A significant percent of Gen Z and millennial donors (80% and 61%, respectively), as well as 46% of Gen X and 23% of boomers would welcome that frequency in 2022.
2. Places of Worship Remain on Top Even as Donations Shift to Other Types of Charity
Though the amount donated ranged from $239 for Gen Z to $996 for boomers, each age group reported its highest contributions to places of worship. However, those figures for Gen X, millennials and boomers were all lower than 2016 figures, with some of those donations shifting to faith-based organizations, among other types of charities.
“With churches now adopting hybrid models of virtual and in-person offerings, it does raise the question of how that has impacted giving to churches,” according to the report.
Generational donation shifts also favored these types of charities:
- U.S. Health/Medical. This category, which includes “institutions in medical research and the provision of medical care not affiliated with hospitals,” landed as Gen Z’s No. 2 and Gen X’s No. 3 charity type. Gen Xers averaged $144 annually, a 53% increase over 2016.
- Nonprofit Hospitals. Millennials gave $157 annually for this category, leaving boomers as the only generation not prioritizing healthcare. As millennials’ third highest priority, nonprofit hospitals leaped 406%, or $126, over 2016.
- Education. Boomers’ $523 annual donation for education landed as their No. 2 priority in 2022. This was a 52% increase over 2016.
- Environmental. Gen Z was the only group to support the environment, rounding out its top three charity types with an $85 annual donation to environmental charities in 2022.
3. Online Giving Has Become More Popular Across All Generations
Regardless of direct mail’s strength, the channel where donors prefer to give is online, so including a QR code on direct mail is key. While one out of 10 donors has scanned a QR code to get to a nonprofit’s website, younger donors are much more likely to use them (47% and 46% for Gen Z and millennials, respectively). Only 6% of boomers indicated they were very or somewhat likely to use a QR code to donate.
“When asked how they prefer to respond to a direct mail appeal, except for boomer donors, a plurality of all other generations of donors prefer to give online,” according to the report. “However, it’s important to note that this preference has increased among Gen X and boomer donors.”
Both the percentage of donors giving online and the number of gifts they gave over 12 months increased.
Gen Z debuted in the survey with 76% giving online. This generation also donated 11.4 times in the past 12 months, topping other generations in gift frequency. Millennials had the largest percentage participating in online giving with 81% — an increase of 11%. Gen X and boomers saw single-digit increases, with 69% and 61%, respectively, giving online. All generations increased gift frequency, with boomers more than doubling their 2016 figure, but fell behind Gen Z with 8.3 gifts.
A lot of those gains can be attributed to double-digit increases in each generation when it comes to online giving via smartphones or tablets. Nonprofit websites also moved past social media as the No. 1 motivator for donors when deciding whether to donate.
“It’s clear that charities must pay close attention to the content and management of their website with it being such an influential medium to motivate donors to give,” according to the report.
Amanda L. Cole is the editor-in-chief of NonProfit PRO. She was formerly editor-in-chief of special projects for NonProfit PRO's sister publication, Promo Marketing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.