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Millennials Are No Less Generous than Other Generations

(May 19, 2008) Prior research shows that young donors in the Millennial generation (born after 1981) are less likely to give and tend to give in smaller amounts than other generations. But according to a recent study, the trend is not generational, but rather a function of young people’s income, education level and religious attendance.

In a study of 10,000 people representing each generation category (Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Great generation and the Silent generation), when all other factors besides generation are equal, the average giving level of Millennials is roughly equivalent to that of other generations.

The study, conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and sponsored by Campbell & Company, shows that younger donors are just as generous as other generations.

“There’s a perception in the nonprofit world that young people aren’t as philanthropic, so this is great news,” says Shaun Keister, Ph.D., annual giving consultant with Campbell & Company.  “A lot of the members of the Millennial generation are still in school or have lower salaries because they’re at the beginning of their careers, so this suggests that their giving may rise along with their earning power.”

Also, members of the Millennial generation are more likely than any other generation to cite the “desire to make the world a better place to live” as a key motivation for their philanthropic giving. According to scholars, this response suggests that younger individuals will respond better to messages that focus on the global impact of an organization’s work.

Religion and Motivation

Several other findings from the survey addressed how attending religious services affects giving and motivations for contributing for different groups. The findings included:

  • Individuals in all generations who attend religious services at least once a year are more likely than those who never attend to support both religious and secular organizations.
  • Consistent with other research, people who attend religious services at all, even as seldom as once per year, are more likely than those who never attend to give to secular organizations.
  • People making less than $50,000 per year are more likely to give to charities that help the poor help themselves; people making more than $125,000 are more likely to select as a reason to give the responsibility to help those with less, holding all other variables constant.
  • Respondents in the lowest income group find more motivation from helping provide for the basic needs of the very poor; people in the highest income group are less likely to be motivated by the basic needs of the very poor, holding all other variables constant.
  • The three highest income groups (those above $125,000 per year) are more say they give from a sense of responsibility to help others with less.

About the Study

The study, "Generational Differences in Charitable Giving and in Motivations for Giving," was conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and sponsored by Campbell & Company. The study used data collected through a web-facilitated survey, fielded by Knowledge Networks in March 2007. More than 10,000 individuals responded to the survey.

For a copy of the study click here and choose “Download the complete study." Fill in your name and check the appropriate box, and the study link will appear.

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