What We Can Learn from the Giving USA Special Report on Giving by Generation

What We Can Learn from the Giving USA Special Report on Giving by Generation



Author’s note: This is the first of a series of articles presenting the information in the Giving USA Special Report: Giving by Generation.

Josh Birkholz, Chair of the Giving USA Foundation, writes, “In this special report, we are excited to present data on how generational giving is shifting… We believe this data will not only inform how you understand the differences in how generations are giving, but also provide clarity on how to approach each generation for those involved in fundraising.” (Emphasis added)
The Giving by Generation report compares data from 2022 with data from 2016 on donors who had given at least $20 to a charity in those years. For the purposes of their study, the researchers used the generational categories set forth by the Pew Research Center; i.e., Gen Z (1997 – 2012), Millennials (1981 – 1996), Gen X (1965 – 1980), Boomers (1946 – 1964), Silents (1928 – 1945).
The charts below shows that some significant changes occurred between 2016 and 2022 regarding overall giving by generational cohort. (Source: Giving by Generation, p. 8)

Description automatically generated
Chart, pie chart

Description automatically generated                                                     Chart, pie chart

Description automatically generated
A few notable takeaways are:
  • The leading edge of Gen Z is now in a position to make significant financial contributions.
  • Millennials have surpassed Gen X in average giving per donor, having increased their giving by 40%
  • Millennials and Gen Z are the only generations to increase their giving from 2016.
  • While they are still on average the largest contributors, Boomers’ contributions declined by 12% from 2016 to 2022.
Some important questions arising from the above data include, but are not limited to:
  • What does this bode for the future regarding fundraising at your church to support its mission and ministry?
  • What generations are represented and/or leading the stewardship and generosity efforts at your church? Does each generational cohort have a seat and a voice at the table? Whose voices are being heard and/or listened to?
  • While it is important to address and include all generations, which generation’s preferences, habits, and concerns are granted pride of place regarding your stewardship and generosity practices?
  • Given the changes that have taken place in the last 6 years and extrapolating 6 years into the future, how might your church need to alter its stewardship and generosity thinking and behavior?

Stewardship not only involves treasure, but also time and talent. Many of our churches have reported great challenges in finding people to volunteer post-pandemic. The Giving by Generation report confirms this experience as it found that the average overall volunteer hours per year declined from 45 hours in 2016 to 28 hours in 2022 – a 38% decline! The following chart provides an additional perspective on this phenomenon by showing volunteer hours by generation. (Source: Giving by Generation, p. 9)

Description automatically generated
It is noteworthy that Boomers, who have for many, many years been a major source of volunteer talent and labor, have reduced their volunteer hours by 49% from 2016 to 2022. Could this have something to do with the challenges churches have today finding volunteers?
Conversely, Gen Z has emerged as an important source, second only to Millennials, for volunteers. What does this suggest about the importance of these generations vis-à-vis volunteerism?
As we seek volunteers, might we want and/or need to consider what Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z, would find attractive about volunteering and in an invitation to volunteer?
How might what Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z find attractive differ from what churches are inviting people to volunteer for and in how they are extending their invitations to volunteer?
The above data evokes many more questions than the few I have identified. Hence, I encourage our congregations to discuss this data more fully for at least two reasons: 1) to see how they might want to adapt their stewardship and generosity thinking and practices; and 2) so that they can more effectively raise funds and volunteers to support their congregation’s mission and ministry both now and in the future.
May God continue to bless you, may Christ continue to lead you, and may the Holy Spirit continue to give you wisdom for the journey!

P. S. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series on Giving by Generation from Giving USA.


david cleaver-barthalomew.jpg
David Cleaver-Bartholomew

Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations for the SNEUCC. Contact David for:  Proportional Giving How to calculate proportional giving for 2021 Annual Giving/Stewardship Campaign General advice and ...

Subscribe to our emails
Framingham, MA Office

1 Badger Road
Framingham, MA 01702

Hartford, CT Office

125 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105

Toll Free Phone: 866-367-2822
Fax: 866-367-0860
General Email: friends@sneucc.org