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Future Trends for Strategic Philanthropy: Survey Reveals More Wealthy Families Want to Donate During Their Lifetimes; Education Remains Most Popular Cause

January 21, 2020

NEW YORK- January 17, 2020 – Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Campden Wealth today published “Global Trends and Strategic Time Horizons in Family Philanthropy 2020,” a report based on a survey of 201 families of significant wealth who are engaged in philanthropic giving. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors also published Strategic Time Horizons: A Global Snapshot of Foundation Approaches in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago.

The responses from the two surveys reveal why these families and foundations give, the types of vehicles through which they donate, what shapes their philanthropic time horizon choices, popular causes, and engagement of the next generation.

Global Trends and Strategic Time Horizons in Family Philanthropy 2020 is the only global survey about family philanthropy of such a scope. The survey respondents represent 28 countries and $2.4 billion in annual giving. With half of the respondents based in the United States, 25% in Europe, and 20% in the Asia-Pacific region, the survey also provides insight on regional nuances to philanthropy.

Among the most significant findings from Global Trends and Strategic Time Horizons in Family Philanthropy 2020 include:

  • More donors are proactively considering the time horizon of their philanthropy, weighing whether it is more effective to have a pre-determined end date for philanthropic initiatives or to continue in perpetuity.
  • Education is the top cause families give to globally, constituting 29% of the average philanthropic portfolio, followed by health (14%), and the arts, culture and sports (10%).
  • European donors are twice as likely to give outside their region as those from North America and Asia-Pacific.
  • Despite increasing global concern for climate change, the environment receives a scant 8% of the giving portfolios in this survey.

“As the global economy grows, so does the number of wealthy individuals making philanthropy a key part of their lives. They’re seeking new approaches and instruments to address acute social and environmental issues effectively,” said Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors CEO Melissa A. Berman. “This global survey affirms trends that we’ve identified in our work: the desire for deeper personal engagement, more focused giving, and a commitment to impact that can be seen and assessed.  Families around the world are actively involved in donor collaboratives, impact investing, media campaigns and public private partnerships.  And as donors become more sophisticated in giving and investing, they’re thinking seriously about the time horizon that makes the most sense for the goals, motivations and visions of their own philanthropy.”

On time horizon

This report reveals that nearly one-third of families (32%) are choosing to adopt a time-limited approach to philanthropy, concentrating their donations over shorter time periods. In fact, the pace of choosing a time-limited approach has grown by nearly two-thirds since the early 2000s. Key drivers include the desire to: see the impact of giving during their lifetime (30%); narrow philanthropic focus (23%); and transfer more of a founding donor’s wealth to good causes sooner rather than later (17%).

The Jacobs Family Foundation, profiled in the report, is an example of this model, designed to have an endpoint based on the founder’s personal experience, philosophy, and desire to see an impact on the local economy during his lifetime.

The majority of responding families (62%) have adopted the more traditional in-perpetuity model of philanthropy. Those adopting an in-perpetuity approach overwhelmingly say it’s because they wish to provide sustained and long-term support to persistent challenges (71%). They also cite the importance of an open-ended time horizon to strengthening a family’s purpose and values (56%), and having greater impact on beneficiaries over multiple generations (41%).

On engaging the next generation

The “next generation” has a significant influence in family philanthropic endeavors across all regions surveyed. Overwhelmingly, families (81%) report the next generation of wealth holders is engaged in their family’s philanthropy in some way. Regardless of time horizon approaches, the majority of respondents (65%) stated that instilling philanthropic values and a sense of moral responsibility is their top strategy to engage the next generation. This is followed by more concrete actions, such as involving the next generation in philanthropic work (55%) and creating meaningful roles for them in philanthropic entities (38%).

Despite these commonalities, the survey showed some regional differences. Respondents from Asia-Pacific tended to rely more heavily on instilling philanthropic values and a sense of moral responsibility (70%) and active philanthropic engagement (59%), while those in the United States relied more heavily on creating meaningful roles (41%) and opportunities to transfer knowledge and experience (38%).

“We are in the early stages of a significant transition in which vast sums of wealth are changing hands between generations. The emerging generation is acutely aware of the largescale global challenges it will face, such as climate change,” said Dr. Rebecca Gooch, Director of Research at Campden Wealth. As the world’s wealthiest are playing an increasingly important role in tackling today’s social and environmental problems, the entrance of this new generation is likely to impact critical global initiatives. Beyond NextGens’ strong influence in the sustainable investment space, they are also set to significantly affect philanthropic giving. This can result in more meaningful funding for certain important causes, such as the environment.”

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