We are entering into a new, global golden age of philanthropy. Having fully emerged from the economic recession, we are now enjoying an unprecedented economic boom. Young people who began their careers over the past decade are starting to see their sweat equity pay off, and are sojourning down their own philanthropic roads. Success feels good, and feeling good makes us feel generous. Young professionals and established donors alike are eager to find ways to express their generosity and pay their good fortune forward.
But what truly motivates donors to give back? With all of the avenues available, why do certain people pick certain projects or organizations? There are many factors that influence this decision. With the recent rise in economic abundance, it is more important than ever for donors and philanthropic recipients alike to understand how donor dollars are being used and what motivates philanthropists to donate.
Along with this new age of giving comes a new age of family life and social norms. Our modern times have brought a new level of technology and innovation, which, in turn, enables us to do more with our time. Getting more done also makes us busier, which gives today’s donor a whole new challenge. With the bevy of charities available, which one to pick? The modern donor is looking for an efficient way to give back, because time is money. He or she is also looking for a trustworthy and meaningful way to donate, making sure that their hard earned dollars are going toward something that directly impacts those in need.
Upbringing and family of origin greatly impacts giving patterns, as well. Values dictate which organizations receive money from different demographics. Research suggests that one of the best ways to truly understand giving patterns and benefit society through philanthropy is to pay close attention to how the desire to give is awakened in each demographic. What values does your demographic hold? How do they see themselves in the world? What is their comfort level with giving?
If you are unsure who your demographic is, or you are looking for new sub-demographics, consider “giving” as a journey that a donor embarks on and enjoys throughout his or her life.
Young donors often begin their journey by giving to causes that feel comfortable to them and are easy to give to. Some examples of these types of causes might be foundations associated with a school they attended, or organizations benefiting their children’s education or their family’s place of worship. Most of these donations start out small and grow over time.
As donors progress down their philanthropic road, they begin to reflect more deeply on their inner motivations and what they consider to be their purpose in life. These reflections spur giving at an elevated level, both monetarily and in concept.
All of these life stages set the donor up for their biggest donation and their declaration of their role as a Philanthropist in the community. This peak in the donor’s journey usually is marked by a large donation to a cause that embodies this person’s “why” – their purpose throughout their life and career. The key to this stage is that the donor is giving strategically, which is the ideal state for both the donor and the philanthropic organization. The donor who has established his or her giving habits and is comfortable with his or her role as a philanthropist in the community is not only the ideal donor for most organizations, but is an integral piece of the puzzle that is a vibrant, sustainable society.
Whether you are already a donor, are looking to become one, or are an organization in search of philanthropic support, it is useful to examine the trends behind donating and the “why” behind various giving habits. Understanding the motivations behind philanthropic behaviors in our community is vital to using our dollars wisely and efficiently, and providing recipients the care and help they need.