How Philanthropy is Becoming Ever More Diverse

Imagine a “philanthropist,” and a particular image likely forms in your mind. Chances are, this individual is wealthy. He’s white. And he’s a man. He’s also probably well over 50, having made his fortune, and now, in the autumn of his years, is looking to secure immortality through charitable giving. 

This old-rich-white-male trope has its roots in the “Gilded Age” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when so-called “robber barons” like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford—having made untold millions in oil, steel, and automobiles—tried to burnish reputations sullied by charges of predatory business practices and ruthless labor exploitation by engaging in large-scale—and highly publicized—acts of philanthropy. 

Rockefeller & Ford

Rockefeller, for example, and to his credit, helped finance schools of public health at both Harvard and Johns Hopkins and supported major public health efforts against diseases like hookworm, malaria, and yellow fever. Ford financed trade schools, including one in Georgia specifically for African Americans. He also built the world-class Detroit hospital that still bears his name. In the 21st century, this trope has been reinforced by such billionaire philanthropists as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

However, like most stereotypes, the old-rich-white-male philanthropist is mostly a myth.

For the last 100-plus years, there have been innumerable givers who have been neither white, old, or male nor, for that matter, even rich. In 2019, American-American businessman Robert F. Smith who, while working at Goldman Sachs in the 1990s helped finance much of Silicon Valley, made headlines in 2019 when, in a commencement speech as Morehouse College, announced he would pay off the student loan debt of that year’s entire graduating class of nearly 400.

Bill Gates’ philanthropy has been conducted with his now ex-wife, Melinda French Gates. Together they have donated more than $33 billion since founding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. In addition, since divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, has donated upwards of $9 billion to more than 780 organizations focused on gender equality, racial justice, and public health.

Philanthropy Conducted By Women

Speaking of strong women, media personality, and self-made billionaire Oprah Winfrey has, over the decades, given tens of millions to various charities, the bulk of these donations going to The Angel Network, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, and The Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation. Similarly, billionaire venture capitalist Laura Arnold, born Laura Muñoz in Puerto Rico in 1972, has dedicated her life to full-time philanthropy, signing the Giving Pledge and creating a private foundation focusing on education, health, tax policy, and criminal justice. And Priscilla Chen, 36, wife of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 37, co-founded the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative to aid with grants and investments in science, education, social justice, and immigration.

Here are a few more stats on the state of philanthropy in America from Giving USA, numbers that speak to how just how diverse giving has become:

  • People making less than $50,000 a year give more as a percentage of their total income than those in all other income ranges except for the highest earners.
  • Moms aged 35-44 were 2021’s, a top volunteer group. 
  • Last year, high-net-worth families donated an average of $28,269. 
  • Among the rest of the population, this figure is $2,514; the average online donation is $177.

Millennials Giving

In related news, according to the payment app Zelle’s September Consumer Payment Report, nearly three out of four Millennials (defined as those aged 25-34) have sent financial aid to friends or family or donated to a nonprofit since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. This is the highest rate among all the generations surveyed, including Gen Z (18-24, 66 percent), Gen X (35-54, 63%), and Baby Boomers (55-72, 54%).

So, how can your charity or non-profit better connect with this vast pool of charitable givers?

The answer lies with DonorSearch. DonorSearch Aristotle uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to target potential donors of all income ranges, ethnicities, genders, and generations with messaging that speak directly to their connection with a philanthropic organization in need of fundraising. 

How DonorSearch can help connect with charitable givers

Our novel approach is far different from conventional outreach applications, which focus on a potential donor’s net worth when making electronic solicitations. Instead, by pairing messages with each recipient’s individual sympathies/loyalties, DonorSearch makes acquiring donations far more efficient, effective, and cost-effective for tomorrow’s organizations. Specifically, DonorSearch helps you:

  • Identify donors who have the capacity to give and possess an affinity for your cause.
  • Expand your prospect list with our philanthropy-focused search database.
  • Predict a prospect’s giving capacity with accurate, secure giving intelligence data.

To find out more about how you can better connect with more diverse donors eager to hear your message, please contact our team of experts to arrange your demo of DonorSearch Aristotle today.

Additional Resources

Donor Journey Mapping Sets the Course for Long-term Giving

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Surveys Say Young People Want to Give More-Here’s How We Make It Happen

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