Younger donors don’t give as much. You can chase the Millennials and the generation whatever’s, but if you don’t take into consideration the family life cycle, then you are misdirecting your energies.
What is the family life cycle I hear you ask?
Wills and Gubar (1966) identified nine distinct life cycle stages of a family. 1966 – and this information is still relevant! They believed that that the age and composition of the family unit has a direct impact on the buying patterns of families. And, as the family moves through the life cycles, these stages change as well.
For instance, at certain points, giving decisions are made jointly with spouses, starting a new family impacts discretionary spending patterns, and levels of disposable income vary over the lifetime of a family. That is why you see younger people not giving as much – while raising a family, they have less disposable income to give away, saving for their child’s education, and their retirement. As folks age and their children grow up, these same folks have an improved financial position with more disposable income and fewer demands on the future and tend to give more.
Since 1966, there have been changes in the family unit that bring to mind some questions – what about single parent households, families having children later in life, and other family units? How do those impact philanthropic giving patterns?
However, overall, I think it is fair to say that looking at where a family is in their particular life cycle stage is an important indicator of their propensity to give, and why I believe that younger folks, while wanting to be, just cannot be as generous as their parents.