Report from Women’s Philanthropy Institute explores the motivations, behaviors and challenges of young, wealthy, social-justice-minded philanthropists
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) today released Moving Money and Shifting Power for Social Justice: Voices of Wealthy Next-Gen Donors, a new report exploring how young, wealthy donors are engaging in social justice philanthropy. The report is informed by 28 interviews with current or alumni members of Resource Generation, a membership community of wealthy, young adults who are committed to equity and wealth redistribution. The report, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides insights on how this group of donors practice philanthropy to support social justice, including their motivations, behaviors and challenges.
The role of philanthropy in addressing inequity has gained visibility in response to recent events that have disproportionately impacted marginalized communities. Rising wealth disparities and the upcoming transfer of wealth from Baby Boomers to younger generations have also sparked conversations about next-gen donors and how they approach solving social issues.
“There has been significant interest in social justice-focused philanthropy, so we undertook this study to understand what social justice giving actually looks like for a specific group of donors–what the challenges are, and how individuals and organizations can better support this work,” said Dr. Elizabeth Dale, the lead author on the study.
“The next generation is poised to inherit unprecedented wealth and may value and use their money in different ways than prior generations,” said Jeannie Sager, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “The experiences of study participants provide insights on the behavior of next-gen philanthropists, how donors’ overlapping identities such as gender or race influence their giving, and the future of social justice philanthropy.”
For study participants, social justice philanthropy is a framework for understanding wealth, systems, class, and privilege that informs their giving. Guided by the values they hold for a more equitable future, these donors engage in social justice philanthropy to dismantle systems that consolidate, maintain, and grow wealth and power. In doing so, participants are confronted with several core tensions inherent in social justice giving, including:
- Fighting wealth inequality while also benefiting from class privilege
- Responding to urgent needs while also wanting to support systemic change
- Ceding decision-making power while also wanting to have closer relationships and be hands-on with nonprofits and beneficiaries
The study participants were young, wealthy, predominantly female donors, with many identifying as queer or part of the LGBTQ+ community. While the report is not explicitly about women donors, it furthers understanding of how multiple overlapping identities, including gender, influence philanthropy. Key findings from Moving Money and Shifting Power for Social Justice: Voices of Wealthy Next-Gen Donors include:
- For many participants, social justice philanthropy is an attempt to reconcile the gap between the world in which wealthy donors operate today and the values they hold for a more equitable future.
- While social justice philanthropy does not have a singular definition, donors interviewed for this study typically enact six practices with their giving:
(1) cede power;
(2) empower others;
(3) be transparent;
(4) change systems;
(5) give wholly; and
(6) challenge oneself.
- For these donors, social justice philanthropy not only includes supporting traditional 501(c)(3) nonprofits, but encompasses political giving and movement building, giving to mutual aid and rapid response, and sharing resources directly with friends and community members.
- Key obstacles that social justice donors described include:
(1) the complexities of wealth, such as donors’ access to their assets or understanding of their wealth as their own (compared to a legacy of another relative);
(2) overcoming discomfort with openly discussing money and navigating family relationships;
(3) the surprising amount of time and effort it takes to give money away; and
(4) the tension of working to address social justice within a flawed and unjust system.
- Complex and intersectional (multiple, overlapping) identities, including donor’s gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religious beliefs, drive giving to social justice causes for many donors interviewed for this study.
Moving Money and Shifting Power for Social Justice: Voices of Wealthy Next-Gen Donors is a powerful resource for those interested in learning more about social justice philanthropy. Donors who wish to give to social justice causes can use the report to understand how their giving strategies can impact unjust systems. Additionally, the research underscores the importance of identity in understanding donors’ motivations and behaviors.
About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. WPI increases understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing these insights broadly to improve philanthropy. By addressing significant and groundbreaking research questions and translating that research into increased understanding and improvements in practice, WPI helps to leverage new and expanded resources for the common good.
About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its undergraduate, graduate, certificate and professional development programs, its research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram and “Like” us on Facebook.