Attracting Next-Gen Philanthropists Through Demonstrated Impact

By Clark Collier, Director of Giving Strategies, Central Indiana Community Foundation 

As philanthropic advisors in central Indiana, we are experiencing firsthand the results of generational culture shifts. At Central Indiana Community Foundation, we are seeing that as the wealth of Boomers and Gen X philanthropists is shifting to Millennials and Gen Zers, each generation brings their own unique spin to how they approach philanthropic giving. While older generations traditionally have prioritized legacy and public recognition, many emerging donors are more focused on tangible results and measurable impact. By emphasizing transparency, accountability, impact, trust, and collaboration, not-for-profits can build meaningful relationships with the next generation of donors and drive positive change in our central Indiana community.  

Let’s take a look at the philanthropic persona many of us have become familiar with in the past few decades. Traditional Boomers and, to some extent, Gen X philanthropists often seek to leave a lasting legacy. I have observed that many within this generation are driven by a desire to make a lasting, visible impact on their communities or causes they hold dear. Whether it’s funding a new wing at a local hospital, endowing a scholarship fund, or supporting arts and cultural institutions, these donors want their contributions to be visible and enduring. They appreciate public recognition, such as having their names on prominent buildings or being featured in magazines. For them, philanthropy is both about giving and leaving a legacy for the organizations and causes they were most committed to during their lifetime.  

On the other hand, Millennial and Gen Z philanthropists often approach giving with a different set of values and priorities. Often inheriting wealth from their parents and grandparents, I have experienced many next-gen philanthropists to be less concerned with public accolades and more focused on seeing tangible results and measurable impact during their lifetimes. Raised in an era of unprecedented access to information and technology, they demand transparency, accountability, and demonstrable outcomes from the organizations they support.

This shift in mindset presents both challenges and opportunities for not-for-profits seeking support from younger generations. Here are a few ideas to consider that we have experienced to be successful, particularly with next-gen philanthropists. 

Emphasize impact along with trust-based philanthropy: Emerging donors want to see visible results. This provides not-for-profits with an excellent opportunity to bring together the need to demonstrate impact through metrics, success stories and testimonials with trust-based philanthropy. Trust-based philanthropy emphasizes mutual trust, transparency and flexibility in grantmaking. When you combine storytelling, metrics, and transparency with donors along with mutual trust to allow not-for-profits to best serve their missions with donor resources, a truly unique bond can be created. Ask your donors: What does meaningful impact mean to you? 

Community listening: Millennial and Gen Z philanthropists value the voices of those most affected by the issues at hand. Not-for-profits should be sure to actively seek input from these communities and community members and involve them in decision-making processes. This might involve hosting listening sessions, conducting surveys, or establishing advisory boards composed of community members. In many cases, it also requires hiring staff that reflects the communities most impacted by your work. By listening to and partnering with those directly impacted, not-for-profits can ensure their efforts are more relevant, effective, and sustainable in addressing central Indiana’s needs. Who is at your decision-making table?  

Collaborative approach: The next generation recognizes the interconnected, systemic nature of problems such as homelessness, racial injustice, and lack of equitable healthcare, and they expect the not-for-profits working to address these issues to work collaboratively. By aligning efforts in tackling central Indiana’s challenges, not-for-profits can ensure each step in the path towards solving issues is addressed. Where can your organization lead or take part in initiatives that tackle root causes rather than just addressing symptoms? 

Transparency and accountability: Millennials and Gen Z value transparency and accountability. Not-for-profits can benefit from being open about their financials, operations, and impact measurement methodologies. Regular updates and progress reports can help build trust and confidence among donors. What organizational challenges can philanthropy help solve, not hinder further? 

Engagement and involvement: Emerging donors want to feel personally connected to the causes they support. Not-for-profits can offer opportunities for meaningful engagement such as volunteer activities, site visits, or participation in decision-making processes. By involving donors directly in their work, organizations can foster deeper connections and commitment. How can you work with next-gen donors to create meaningful engagement opportunities for them? 

As the rising generations take a leadership role within our communities, we in philanthropy are challenged to innovate our practices as well. The team at CICF looks forward to supporting next-gen philanthropy that tackles our greatest challenges and leaves a lasting impact on our central Indiana community. 


Feel free to reach out to me to continue this conversation:

Clark K. Collier, CFRM
Director of Giving Strategies
317-634-2423 x511

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