Innovation and technology are leading people closer to the causes they care about.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado.
Courtesy Lionello DelPiccolo
Consider: over 260,000 philanthropic foundations exist worldwide, and more than 90 percent of these institutions are condensed in the 25 highest-income countries, with surplus resources to spread across the globe. Yet as global wealth grows, particularly among millennials and Gen Z, the causes and issues they care about are coming to the forefront—chief among them environmental stewardship. This signals a shift in philanthropic priorities compared to generations before them, while pointing a light towards the most pressing issues of our future.
The top 100 charities in the U.S. raised a collective $54.4B in 2021.
In 2021, the top 100 charities in the U.S. saw a 10 percent increase in overall contributions compared to the year prior, in large part thanks to increased recreational spend available to many in last year’s strong economy.
Collectively, the top 100 organizations, a list curated by Forbes, raised an estimated $54.4 billion. Support for basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, both domestically and internationally, earned most donation dollars, followed by medical and youth support.
Interestingly, community matters greatly in influencing which causes people choose to support. Findings from Bank of America’s 2021 Study of Philanthropy indicated that 12.7 percent of affluent households felt the reduction of social interaction in 2020 increased the amount they gave to their own communities in 2021.
Rolle Pass, Italy.
Courtesy Massimiliano Morosinotto
Net worth also played a huge role in determining not only who gives or how much, but also passion for philanthropy in general. According to Wealth-X’s May 2021 report, which studied ultra-high-net-worth individuals’ top 30 interests, passions and hobbies, 40 percent of those with $100 million or more reported philanthropy as their number one passion.
Conversely, those with a net worth of $5 million to $30 million ranked it as their second favorite pursuit. In any case, the study recognizes that philanthropy itself—and the causes a person chooses to support—are an important reflection of justice they seek the most, such as finding a cure to illnesses, securing children’s mental health, protecting the planet, providing computer access to underprivileged students and so on.
40% of those with a net worth of $100M+ reported philanthropy as their number one passion.
Grand Tetons, Wyoming.
Courtesy Dan Meyers
NEW PLANET, NEW PRIORITIES
A notable difference in last year’s charitable donations was between older and younger generations’ philanthropic habits. “Millennial and later cohorts tend to be skeptical of institutions and formally established ways of giving,” says Dr. Amir Pasic, Dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Pink Lake, Goldfields‐Esperance, Australia.
Courtesy Mitchell Clarke
“They are more comfortable with technology and informal engagement, and often expect the social impact of what they are supporting to be clearly described,” says Pasic. City Harvest, for instance, doubled their millennial engagement in 2021 by ensuring transparency with donors, disclosing the exact cost of delivering each pound of food to New Yorkers in need. One dollar nearly fed one family per day in 2021.
The importance of environmentalism is also core to younger demographics. Bank of America’s study found that most survey respondents born after 1982 chose climate change as an issue that was most important to them, as opposed to older respondents, who prioritized health care.
Similarly, Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of millennial respondents felt that the environment should be a top priority, and they were most likely to have personally taken action to help address environmental concerns the last year.
71% of millennials surveyed felt the environment
should be a top priority to philanthropists.
MAKING CHANGE, BIT BY BIT
The desire for transparency in younger generations is perhaps most reflected in the dramatic increase in cryptocurrency donations, one of the prominent philanthropic trends of the year.
This has largely followed the dramatic increase in NFT popularity, as outlined in our story, and has been enabled by platforms that help nonprofits accept cryptocurrencies.
Courtesy Braden Jarvis
One is Fidelity Charitable Trust, an arm of Fidelity, which helps both donors and nonprofits avoid or minimize high transfer fees typically associated with crypto trading. Donations with Fidelity more than doubled over two years, from $13 million in 2019 to $28 million in 2021.
It is estimated over $300M was donated in crypto in 2021.
Courtesy Shawn Ang
The Giving Block, a Washington D.C.-based platform dedicated to processing crypto donations, reported that their total 2021 donation volume grew to $69.6 million, up 1,558 percent—16 times that of 2020’s $4.2 million. Even more stunningly, Giving Block’s 2021 Annual Report found that the average value of a cryptocurrency donation through their platform was $10,455—82 times the average online cash donation of $128. They estimate that the total yearly value of cryptocurrency donations is now over $300 million.
Donors through these platforms prioritized educational, animal welfare and environmental causes, in that order, suggesting a younger demographic as consistent with other report findings. If 2021 is anything to look back on, connecting donors, particularly younger ones, with insights and technologies that promote transparency and direct impact lights the way for a promising future.