“Millennial donors aren’t who we thought they were,” Rich Dunham said in a statement introducing a new study by Dunham + Company, a consultant to nonprofits.

“Our research showed they are bullish on charities and are likely to give more to charities as they mature.”

On one measure, the study found that millennials lag their older counterparts. In the past year, millennial donors reported giving $580 to charity, compared with Gen Xers, $799; baby boomers, $1,365; and matures (born in 1945 or earlier), $1,093.

“Anecdotally, we know that factors like job status and student debt can limit how much [millennials] give at this stage of their lives,” Dunham said.

At the same time, however, millennials closely reflected their elders in their volunteerism and attendance at religious services, two key indicators of a person’s willingness to give to charity, according to the study.

Millennials averaged 40 volunteer hours over the past year, compared with 34 hours for Gen Xers and 41 for boomers. Matures outdid everyone, volunteering 70 hours.

Twenty-five percent of millennials said they attended church once a week or more, compared with 27% for Gen Xers, 28% for boomers and 36% for matures.

Millennials in the survey gave an average of $416 to places of worship and $96 to faith-based nonprofits in the past year, but only $84 to education, their next biggest type of contribution.

In addition, 22% of millennials said they planned to give more to places of worship in the coming year.

This youngest donor cohort agreed with the view that charities are more effective than government in providing important services, with a mean score of 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 expressing the highest confidence in charities.

Recent research shows that millennials are at the forefront of a shift in how donors think about philanthropy.

“With census data showing that millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the largest generation, it’s more important than ever that we understand their giving habits,” Dunham said.

Dunham + Company commissioned Campbell Rinker to conduct an online survey in November of 1,391 U.S. donors who were screened to ensure that they had given at least $20 to a charity in the past year.

Millennials in the study were likelier than other generations to use and be influenced by technology:

  • 51% had given a gift through a charity’s website

  • 37% had used a smartphone to give through a charity’s website

  • 36% had been motivated to give by something they had seen on a charity’s website

The study also found that millennials were just as likely as other generations to respond to direct mail from charities.

Half said they expected to receive postal mail at least once a month from charities they supported, and two-thirds said the same about email. Eighty-one percent said a phone call at least once a year was appropriate.

The study considered the question how millennials’ giving today compares with that of other generations when they were the same age. For an answer, researchers looked to a study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

That study compared giving behavior across a 40-year period of pre-boomers, ages 25 to 47 in the 1970s, and Gen Xers/millennials, ages 25 to 47 in the 2000s.

The study estimated that giving by Gen-X/millennial single women today was comparable to the giving of pre-boomer single women from four decades ago.

The estimate of giving by Gen-X/millennial single men and married couples today was lower than the giving of their pre-boomer counterparts four decades ago.

— Check out How Millennial Women Are Modernizing Philanthropy: Fidelity Charitable on ThinkAdvisor.