Blog / Family Philanthropy

Generational Transition of Wealth and Leadership

by Michael Moody
Generational Transition of Wealth and Leadership
Drawing on our local, national, and international research, tool development, training, and data work, leaders from the Johnson Center have identified 11 key trends that will impact the work of both grantmakers or nonprofit leaders in the months and years to come. In this piece, we explore one of those trends in depth.

Download and read the full report, featuring all 11 trends, here.

Front cover of the “11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2017” reportIf current trends in wealth and giving continue, America’s next generation of major donors — the big donors from the Gen X and millennial generations, those in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s — will be the most significant philanthropists ever. They will have unprecedented financial assets available for giving, and all signs point to them wanting to give in new ways that will reshape philanthropic norms. So these emerging “Next Gen Donors” will have an outsized impact on both philanthropy and the world we share. Clearly, we need to understand what kind of donors they want to be.

We are currently in the midst of what scholars believe is the greatest “wealth transfer” in American history. A 2014 Boston College study estimated that just over $59 trillion will be transferred across generations between 2007 and 2061. Not $59 billion — $59 trillion. Most of this wealth transfer is happening within a relatively small group of high-net-worth families, and it means the next gen members of these families will ultimately give significantly more than their predecessors. At the same time, techies, hedge funders, and others in the next gen are making their own wealth, often in staggering amounts, and many are beginning to give that wealth in aggressively innovative ways.

The Johnson Center is at the forefront of research into the philanthropic identities of next gen donors. I recently co-authored a book that shows how these rising donors want to fundamentally change philanthropic strategy and to be much more hands-on and closely engaged than previous generations, while still stewarding the legacy they are inheriting. And this research is informing other Johnson Center programs that help nonprofits, families, advisers, and others in our field respond effectively to what these historically significant donors want and need.