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January 28, 2013

Driven by Values, Not Valuables

Author: and

“Think back to the great philanthropists of years past who thought of making money in the first half of their lives and giving it away in the second half,” says Justin Rockefeller, a trustee and member of the investment committee at the $739 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund, great-great grandson of John D. Rockefeller and, at 33, himself a Millennial. “I think the younger generation is seeing that as a false dichotomy, or at least something that will increasingly become a false dichotomy.[1]

After ten years of working with donors like Justin, we at 21/64 understand that his perspective about being a philanthropist now is not unique.  In fact it’s a perspective we have heard over and over.  We wanted to confirm our experience in a more academically rigorous fashion. We partnered with the esteemed Frye Chair of Family Philanthropy, Michael Moody, at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy to conduct the definitive study on high capacity next gen donors, nationally, quantitatively and qualitatively. While there have been many other studies on Millennials, none focused on high-capacity donors; and while there have been many studies focused on high-capacity donors, none focused on those in the next gen.

One year, 310 qualified surveys and thirty interviews later, data from #NextGenDonors suggests Rockefeller is right.  21 to 40 year old high-capacity donors are strongly driven by their values and many inheritors of wealth and philanthropy describe their social positions as one of “privilege.” They are passionate about making sure their all activities align with these values; they are driven by values, not valuables.

As recipients of the 40 trillion in wealth transfer, these powerful, socially conscious next gen donors step into leadership, how will their approach to philanthropy require the field to adapt? How will their respect for legacy and demand for strategic grantmaking, compel change within family foundations and donor advised funds? How will their reliance on peer networks and learning from the web require the advisory industry to change how it approaches the next generation of its clients? How will philanthropic infrastructure groups evolve to respond to hands-on, linked-in, impact-first members of the future?

We hope data from NextGenDonors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy ignites curiosity, spurs conversations, and inspires new ideas.  Join the #NextGenDonors conversation this year and continue to see, hear and learn more at

Danielle Oristian York is a Director at 21/64, a non-profit consulting division of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies specializing in next generation and multi-generational strategic consulting for families.

[1] Millennials Keen on Impact Investing By Katie Gilbert; Institutional Investor, 2012.


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