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Rick Dunham “Generational Giving Research”

D+C Founder Rick Dunham and Executive Director Australia Joshua Crowther recently sat down with Trent on the Cause+Effect podcast to unpack longitudinal data from a donor study on generational giving patterns. We hope this research gives you fresh insights to inform your strategy and practical takeaways you can implement today.

Is there really a clear difference in how each generation views giving?

According to a recent Dunham+Company study, yes, there is.

In an effort to better understand Millennials, Dunham+Company embarked on a donor study in 2016 to look at donor behavior among generations in the US, UK and Australia. In 2022, we decided it was time to revisit with up-to-date data that speaks to generational differences, commitment to giving, and church attendance.

(This report is now published as Giving by Generation: A Giving USA Special Report. It was solely based on donor behavior of those who gave in the past year and is not indicative of the general population.)

One big takeaway: The Millennial generation of donors is quickly emerging as a force in philanthropy. They are highly engaged in their faith and the most likely generation to attend worship services both in person and online.

Another key finding was the data indicating how highly connected to technology donors have become since 2016, with the most significant jump coming from older donors.

Here are just a few key takeaways emerging from the study:
  1. Make giving through your website easily accessible.

Since 2016, online giving has increased by every generation.

Not only has the percentage of donors who give online increased across generations, every generation has increased the average number of gifts given online in a 12-month period.

When asked what prompted their online gift, the most influential thing for every generation (except for Boomers) was something they saw on the charity website.

The charity website has increased in influence since 2016, especially true among younger donors.

Make no mistake, your website plays a vital role. Do you have a clear path to donate from your homepage? Is the donate button easy to find and the process simple to navigate? It matters more than ever.

  1. Mobile giving should remain a top priority.

Back in 2016, one out of four donors (25 percent) said they had used their smartphone or tablet to give through a charity’s website. Today, that percentage has jumped to 38 percent. 

Donors are increasingly using their smartphones (and tablets) to donate, even including one out of four Boomer donors. And with the use of QR codes accelerating as a result of the COVID pandemic, one out of 10 donors say they have used a QR code to go to a charity website.

In addition to this increase in smartphone usage, there is a fairly significant decrease in desktop use, with overall usage dropping from 55 percent in 2016 to 44 percent in 2022.

It’s absolutely imperative that all digital communications and platforms be mobile-optimized. Think ‘mobile first’ because that is where donors are living their lives across every generation.

  1. Multichannel communication is more important than ever… regardless of your generation. 

One growing form of communication that is motivating donors to give an online gift is a text message from a charity. In 2016, only 1% of donors had given a gift in response to a text, whereas in 2022, 7% indicated the same.

Giving an online gift in response to a text message is growing among all generations. In fact, both Gen X and Millennials said they are likely to respond to a text and were fine with a monthly text message from a charity they support.

Also of interest is that direct mail continues to be a consistent medium to generate a response in every generation. Interestingly, Millennials are the most likely to respond to direct mail compared to the other generations.

Now is the time to double down and make sure your multi-channel communication strategy is integrated, effective, and consistent in messaging.

For more specific findings from this research pertaining to generational differences in volunteering, giving priorities, and church attendance, request the full study here: Giving by Generation: A Giving USA Special Report.


Rick is a four-decade veteran in marketing, fundraising, and organizational development for nonprofit organizations. After serving for 11 years in nonprofit management and fundraising leadership roles, Rick began his consulting career in 1989. In 2002 he founded Dunham+Company, which has become a global leader in providing fully integrated marketing and fundraising strategies for nonprofit organizations.

Dunham+Company has served over 100 organizations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Rick holds a BA from Biola University and a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rick serves as a member of the board of The Giving Institute and is the immediate past chair of the Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the most widely respected annual report on giving in the U.S. In addition, Rick is a member of The Giving Coalition, the national voice for charitable organizations in the U.S.

Rick is the author of Secure: Discovering True Financial Freedom and If God Will Provide, Why Do We Have to Ask for Money? He has also been published and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, as well as numerous other publications. Rick has served as a commentator on Fox Business News as well as participated as a frequent guest on numerous regional and national radio programs

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