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How Younger Donors Are Changing Charitable Giving: Wells Fargo

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What You Need to Know

  • Forty-six percent of people surveyed said they had used newer ways of giving this year.
  • Fifty-seven percent of millennials reported donating via newer channels, versus 49% of Generation Xers and 34% of baby boomers.
  • Two-thirds of participants said they sometimes feel they do not give enough, including three-quarters of both millennials and Gen Z.

Social media and digital tools are profoundly influencing how Americans give to charity, Wells Fargo reported Thursday.

Forty-six percent of participants in a recent survey said they had used newer ways of giving this year: 35% donated through GoFundMe, 19% clicked social media donation buttons and 16% gave directly to web entertainers and information sites, such as Wikipedia.

Fifty-seven percent of millennials in the survey reported that they had donated via newer channels, compared with 49% of Generation Xers and 34% of baby boomers. Age aside, 79% of respondents said they appreciate newer ways to give.

If there is a downside to this trend, it is that the sundry options to give and higher expectations to be charitable increase pressure on Americans. Half of survey participants said they find it hard to say no when someone asks them to give.

These include 62% of Gen Z and 58% of millennials.

Versta Research conducted the national online survey in mid-November among 811 U.S. adults.

Pandemic Influence

The survey identified ways in which the pandemic has affected people’s level of charitable giving. Fifty-seven percent of participants said it has changed their giving levels: 46% are giving more because of the pandemic, and 11% are giving less. 

Two-thirds of participants said they sometimes feel they do not give enough, including three-quarters of both millennials and Gen Z.

“Almost everyone surveyed say that giving makes them feel good, and the pandemic has accentuated opportunities to give,” Arne Boudewyn, head of family wealth and culture services at Wells Fargo Bank within the wealth and investment management division, said in a statement. 

“In addition to reporting monetary gifts, it’s also heartening to see nine out of 10 try to practice random acts of kindness. Philanthropy isn’t always about money, but often is simply a mindset.”

According to the survey, 52% of Gen Z and 48% of millennials want to donate their time to charity rather than give money. Overall, 1 in 3 Americans said they would rather donate their time instead of money, the survey found. 

Not Just for Millionaires

The Wells Fargo-sponsored survey found that while many people have donated to individuals, groups or charities this year — with 59% donating an average of $1,300 in 2021 — most do not consider themselves philanthropists. 

Eighty-five percent of respondents believe philanthropy is not just for millionaires; only 28% consider themselves one.

Wells Fargo noted that the term “philanthropist” might have higher-dollar connotations for some, but taking into account newer and smaller channels of giving included in the survey, such as social media and checkout lines, an estimated 30% of Americans are probably giving more than they think.

Unplanned Giving

As with all things financial, creating and sticking to a budget can be just as challenging when it comes to giving, according to Wells Fargo. Only 29% of respondents said they have planned intentions with their donations each year.

Seventy-one percent said they often give on the spur of the moment, or when they feel “moved to give.” Just 14% reported that they have a yearly budget for donations, and only 31% do any research on the causes they support. 

“Overall, these findings show a positive trend in community support,” Boudewyn said. “But it’s important to understand as much as you can about the charities you support, and it can be really helpful to plan out a giving strategy — particularly if you are making these donations as a family.” 

Boudewyn said that researching charities and developing a giving strategy can be an effective way to engage younger family members and instill in them the value of generosity. 

“With more than 87% of respondents having grown up understanding the value of generosity, those are clearly values passed on through the generations. Whether you do so at the grocery store line, social causes, or through a foundation, your support and work is important.”


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