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The Next Generation of Philanthropy: A Conversation with Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody

Philanthropic experts Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody join Senior Philanthropic Advisor Gwen Wurst on the Grow Your Giving podcast to discuss how younger generations are approaching philanthropy and how families can navigate multigenerational giving. Sharna and Michael are co-authors of the bestselling book Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving.

Listen to their conversation online or wherever you find podcasts. A transcription of this episode can be found below.

All episodes of the Grow Your Giving podcast can be found at greaterhorizons.org/podcast.

Authored by: Ashley Hawkins, Content Specialist


Episode Transcription

Introduction:
Welcome to the Grow Your Giving Podcast powered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and our national entity, Greater Horizons. We aim to make giving convenient and efficient for our donors through donor-advised funds and other charitable giving tools. The Grow Your Giving Podcast discusses philanthropic topics to help you enjoy giving more. Find us online at GreaterHorizons.org.

Gwen Wurst:
Hi, I’m Gwen Wurst, a senior philanthropic advisor at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and our national entity Greater Horizons. I’ll be your host for today’s episode of the Grow Your Giving Podcast. And I’m excited for today’s conversation. Today we’ll be discussing multi-generational and next generation philanthropy with two experts in the field, Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody.

Gwen Wurst:
Sharna is the founder of a nonprofit organization called 21/64, which helps multi-generational philanthropic families come together to define their values, collaborate, and to give back for decades to come. Together with Michael Moody, Sharna is the co-author of the bestselling book, Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving.

Gwen Wurst:
Michael Moody is a cultural sociologist who helps people navigate today’s complex world of giving and social innovation. Michael is a well-known speaker, writer, and commentator on the vital role of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. I’m excited to dive into the research that Sharna and Michael have conducted over the last several years on the future of philanthropy and talk about how families can take advantage of this unique time in history.

Gwen Wurst:
So Sharna and Michael, thank you for joining us today. It’s wonderful to have you both with us. What can you tell us about the impetus for the book, the original book, and the update that you just completed?

Michael Moody:
Yeah. Well, I’ll take this one and thanks for having us on this. We, it’s really, I think, nice to be doing this podcast now because we’re almost exactly 10 years from the date of the first conversation about all this, what has now been a decade long partnership between Sharna and me and between our organizations 21/64 and The Johnson Center in Michigan where I work. So and 10 years ago at COF, Council on Foundations Conference in Philadelphia, we met for coffee at Redding Terminal and talked about essentially a mutual interest that both of us had. In some ways, a mutual need in the field that we recognized, which was there was this group of donors who are going to become the biggest donors ever. What we now talk about as next gen donors, those who are Gen X-ers and Millennials who are going to be major donors in the future, and we really didn’t know that much about them and the field didn’t know that much about them, not nearly as much as we knew about their parents and grandparents.

Michael Moody:
So we said, let’s think about whether we could do something together. And we saw immediately that there was sort of a complementarity to what we brought to the project because, Sharna has deep, deep expertise in multi-generational family giving and family conversations about things like values, and knows a lot of people in that field. And I, as a researcher brought that kind of expertise and a family philanthropy expert. So we thought, all right, this could work as a research and writing partnership. 10 years later, we’re still doing it. So we, initially after that 2011 meeting, we did a survey with a few interviews and publish that as a report.

Michael Moody:
And sure enough, that report really resonated in the field because people were thirsty for this kind of information about who are this rising generation of donors. And then from there, we decided, all right, let’s go out and do a bunch more interviews, get some people to write up their stories in the first person, and that became Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, which came out in 2017. That really resonated well, we did a whole lot of talks and, and we also did some specific best practice guides for the audiences that were most eager to engage the next generation for nonprofits, for advisors, and for families, and those who work with families. And so that, plus a lot of other updates, we then put into an updated and expanded edition of the book of Generation Impact, which came out in October of 2020, end of last year. And so that’s where we are now, 10 years later.

Gwen Wurst:
Wow. That’s a long story. You’ve got halfway of a generation right there in that 10 years.

Michael Moody:
Yeah, that’s right.

Gwen Wurst:
So Sharna, you and your organization, 21/64, help people identify, clarify, define their own values that motivate their giving. So in your book, you mention that the next gen or the now gen define that differently and look at that perspective a little, come to that perspective a little differently. Can you talk about that and expand on that for us?

Sharna Goldseker:
Sure. So the only thing I will say is it’s a pleasure to be back with you. I know we worked together for many years and I always appreciate collaborating with you, Gwen, and your team. And I definitely enjoy my collaboration, Michael, with you, although I’m not sure we met for coffee, I think we had milkshakes when we first sat down together and which I knew signaled the beginning of a long friendship.

Sharna Goldseker:
So next gen donors prioritize values more than valuables. They, like other generations, are motivated to give because of their values, but what’s different is that they want to seamlessly align their values with their giving choices and not just in the grants that they make but in all areas of their giving. So for example, we heard some next gen who say, “My elders want to make money on one hand and give it away on the other. And I want to make those choices in alignment.”

Sharna Goldseker:
So whether it’s making grants in alignment with their values, allocating their assets in alignment with their values. I think about Justin Rockefeller, who we interviewed for Generation Impact, our book. He talks about how he and his sister Valerie led the Rockefeller brothers’ investment committee, part of the investment, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, to divest from fossil fuels, which is how the bulk of their assets were invested, it’s where the family made their money. But to divest from fossil fuels because it undermined the values aligned giving they were doing through grantmaking at the foundation for environmental sustainability, right?

Sharna Goldseker:
Or I think about in our recent survey of next gen donors during the pandemic, 41% of them said that they align their consumer spending with their values. So beyond even their philanthropic giving, they’re buying locally from BIPOC owned organizations, as opposed to the national or global conglomerates where they can’t transparently see how their values are aligned with their operations. So we’re encouraging families and advisors, and even the nonprofit professionals who are engaging next gen to start from a place of values. What do you value? What do you care about? And how does it align with the way you want to allocate your time, talent, treasure, and ties?

Gwen Wurst:
So Sharna, how do you advise those families? Or what do you tell those families to make that transition? If you’ve got someone like Justin Rockefeller, who’s talking about divesting from what the family invested in initially, or made their wealth from, how do you suggest families start to engage that next generation in a conversation? You talk about storytelling sometimes or passing down the family narrative, but how does that we then when we’re working with the next gen?

Sharna Goldseker:
One of my mentors likes to say, we usually onboard the next gen as if we were trying to change a car tire while driving the car 60 miles an hour, right? We, in a way we just keep going and we say, jump on. And so instead, we want to recognize that the next gen probably have heard about the family’s giving for many years, probably have been involved in their own volunteerism and giving for many years, by the time they’re engaged at the formal decision-making table. And so they’re probably eager to play a role, and so how can we slow down enough to onboard them properly, to start with conversations about the family legacy and as you said, the family narrative? How do we come to this work? Not all families want to give charitably in the way we do. So what happened in our family life cycle, who are the people or events that informed our family’s desire to be philanthropic, to be charitable and to give back? And how does that inform who you can be in this legacy of family philanthropy?

Sharna Goldseker:
Similarly, what do you value? Here’s what we value around the table, here’s what we’ve been prioritizing in the family foundation or the donor-advised fund giving. What do you care about in the world? How does that align with what we’re doing? And how does that inform where we want to go as a multi-generational family moving forward? I just think it opens up a different kind of conversation then, “Hey, here’s what’s on the docket this quarter.”

Gwen Wurst:
Yeah.

Sharna Goldseker:
Or as some people I think, with the best of intentions do, here’s a thousand dollars, where do you want to make a grant? I guess what I want to say is you not only have the multi-generational family that needs to learn to work together, but oftentimes we engage next gen when they’re in a developmental process of figuring out their own identity, figuring out who they are and what they value and how they want to be in the world. And so making this a space where they can do that thoughtfully is really an added benefit.

Gwen Wurst:
Michael, you say that next gen donors are changing the field of philanthropy in dramatic ways. And in fact, you’re calling them revolutionary. Can you tell us a little bit about how next gen donors are giving differently?

Michael Moody:
Sure. And there’s a lot in the book about how they’re giving differently. So I’ll just touch on a few things, but I will start by saying we don’t use that word revolution lightly because revolutions are messy and they break things and even though they can lead to great change for the good. And so we use it intentionally because there is a set of big changes that they want to make to the field. And I would say that those changes are really not meant to be change for changes sake, which sometimes the next gen is often accused of, they just wanted him to put the want to put their own stamp on something so they’re just going to do it differently because they don’t want to do it in the same way as everybody else.

Michael Moody:
And that’s not really what we heard from them when we talked to them deeply that they want to make change for impact’s sake. That’s why we call them Generation Impact, they’re really obsessed with moving the needle on issues that their parents and grandparents and other philanthropists have been working on for many years. And so all these changes I’m going to talk about are really, for them, ways that they see that they can finally make their generation be the one known for really making a difference on climate change or public education or health disparities or whatever the issue is.

Michael Moody:
Now that the revolution though, as that should suggest to you, this list of causes, the revolution is not happening in the causes. It’s not happening in the what of philanthropy if you will, the issues that they’re going to focus on. They tend to focus on the same set of issues as their parents and grandparents. They’re really focused on education, focused on basic needs is the top two issues. There are some that are becoming more important, like human rights and climate change itself, things like that. But for the most part, the issues are not changing, the causes are not changing. And also the why is not changing, the reason they want to give for values as Sharna was talking about, the reasons they give or why they want to be engaged in philanthropy are similar to previous generations.

Michael Moody:
But the revolution is happening then at the how of giving, it’s the strategies they want to take, the engagement they want to have with those organizations that they support, the innovations and risks that they can take. And so just to talk about some of those things in terms of the how that’s changing, one is they want to go all in, we say, they feel like they’ve got, they don’t want to just take the traditional approach of what some people sometimes would call spray, pray and walk away. Right? They don’t like any part of that formula. One person put it that, “My parents and grandparents were concerned with the name on the outside of the building. I want to be inside the building, and I’m concerned with what’s going on inside. I want to roll up my sleeves, sit down and work with the program people of the partner organization to try to figure out how we can solve some problems and move the needle.”

Michael Moody:
So they’re really, and for them, that means giving their time and their talent as well as their treasure. And again, this is a generation that has a tremendous amount of treasure, historic amounts of treasure, but they believe very deeply that their time and their talent is just as important. And in fact, they’ve been doing that, they’ve been raised as a generation that does that, giving their time and talent. 95% volunteer before they’re 21 and 77% volunteered even before they were 15 years old. And about half of them were giving their own money before they were 21. So they’re used to giving time and talent and that means good giving for them. And they’re carrying that over now that they’re entering their roles.

Michael Moody:
The other two things I’ll mention about what’s changing is one is they want to have more hands-on relationships, more long-term relationships. Again, not spray, pray and walk away. They don’t want to walk away, they want to be deeply engaged with these organizations over the course of a long period of time. They talk about them in relationship terms. They want them to be transparent, honest relationships that they build over a long term with one or two organizations, rather than spraying across multiple different organizations. Because for them again, that’s what’s going to lead to impact in the way they want to see it.

Michael Moody:
And the final thing is the risks in innovating. We already heard about Justin Rockefeller and his sister encouraging that kind of innovation and risk-taking with the endowment of the family funds. We see that a lot in terms of the next generation wanting to engage with, to try to seek change, not just through traditional charitable means, but they want to seek change through their consumer choices. They want to seek change through the way in which they organize politically, or they support 501-C4 organizations, as well as C3 organizations, about going all in with one or two organizations and really putting all of your eggs in those one or two baskets that you really deeply believe in.

Michael Moody:
A final way they want to do this change and revolutionized philanthropy is through innovating, taking risks, and that includes many things that they can take risks on, things like supporting political organizations, being involved in organizing and funding movements, changing their consumer behavior. All of those things we’ve already heard a little bit about. For them, those are necessary, those kinds of innovations and risk-taking are necessary in order to achieve the impact that they want to achieve.

Gwen Wurst:
So Sharna, could you tell us, what is the next gen, are we talking about millennials? We’re talking about Y, Z? What’s the age range? When were these folks born? Who is this?

Sharna Goldseker:
Yeah, I appreciate the clarification, it’s hard to tell some days, we now have five generations over the age of 21 in American society at the same time. So if it helps, I like to start with traditionalists are born between 1925 and 1945. And then came the baby boomers who are now the majority of leadership in the family philanthropy space born between 1945 and 65. Then you have the gen X-ers like myself, like Michael born between 1965 and 80. And our book does start with X-ers and continues on with millennials born between 80 and 95. So we mostly cover X-ers and millennials we see them as the next generation because they are the next after the baby boomers who are largely inheritors of the wealth transfer, we’re amid the largest wealth transfer in history with 59 trillion going to baby boomers and their adult gen X and Y children.

Sharna Goldseker:
And then of course in the last five years, we’ve seen gen Z come to the fore or zoomers as they’re sometimes called, born between 1995 and 2015. So hopefully that helps clarify. And I think because of some of them being over 21 in this pandemic, in our research last summer, when we surveyed next gen, we included the older Z-ers, the older zoomers in that, just to understand how 20, 30, and 40 somethings were responding.

Gwen Wurst:
Thanks.

Sharna Goldseker:
Yeah.

Gwen Wurst:
So what are some of the structured opportunities that families could offer next generations in their family to help them prepare those rising philanthropists? You talked a little bit about the storytelling and building it as they’re flying it, so to speak, but what are some of the practical things families can do to prepare them?

Sharna Goldseker:
Sure. So we like to say if you know, one family, you know one family. Everyone has different structures that fit their family’s personality and how they like to interact. So I’ll throw out a few possibilities, but just there’s no one formula I think, for how to engage next gen, it’s what feels right. And if anything, I would say, start by even asking your adult gen X, Y, or Z children, what would most engage them and how they would like to participate? Because usually, they have the best ideas for how they want to come to the multi-generational family table.

Sharna Goldseker:
So a couple of things, sometimes kids want to learn among peers, right? They don’t want to be told by parents and grandparents how to behave. And so even just setting aside a stipend, an allowance, a small budget for next gen to go to conferences, pick one philanthropic conference or donor education workshop a year, for example, for training. Or a small set aside to participate in a peer giving circle or a local funding collaborative, even if they’re based in a different community in which you are, to see it as a learning experience. Because next gen do look horizontally to learn from their peers. They’re so used to looking at customer reviews on online retailers or restaurant reviews from Yelp, they’re used to researching horizontally to get strategic ideas and opinions, even in the nonprofit sector.

Sharna Goldseker:
So to support their education and their peer-based learning in that way is one suggestion. Another is if you want to encourage their own giving, we have some clients who will match their next gen donors contributions. And one client I know doubles the match if their child is a volunteer or a board member at that organization, to incentivize having skin in the game, being hands-on in that way. Others take a step further than matching and set up discretionary giving, so you might have a small set aside if you find that the family is really committed to supporting education or climate change, for example, and the next gen has different ideas of its own, or you want them to fund in Kansas City and the next gen lives in New York where they go to college, maybe a small discretionary set aside so that they can support something that they’re involved in which doesn’t draw too much away from the family’s core giving.

Sharna Goldseker:
And then, I would just share one last story which you can read in the book about Sara Ojjeh, who she tells us in her first-person account that her family set up a small fund for she and her siblings when they were in their late teens and early twenties, introduced them to an advisor, which by the way, is a fantastic tactical suggestion because most kids don’t have their own advisors. Right? And so even just to build that relationship was important, but she said they learned to read proposals and do site visits together and make decisions together and quote fail forward in a way that was super valuable to her learning experience at a young age before the stakes got higher and they had more resources to be responsible for. So I always like to share that suggestion of this sibling learning journey, too.

Gwen Wurst:
So Michael, as a researcher, I’m just curious, what was the surprise in the research? 10 years ago and recently, were there any surprises you?

Michael Moody:
Well, there are always surprises. And then whether you admit them or not, some people like to say they knew exactly what they were going to do, they had the perfect hypothesis and then proved their hypothesis. I would say for me, and this is perhaps just because of where I was sitting, I think it was probably less of a surprise for Sharna, but for me it was just how proactive and earnest the next generation are about their own learning. We heard over and over again, people talking about how they were looking for opportunities. Often those are experiential hands-on or peer-based opportunities, but also mentorship opportunities, learning from the previous generation, and as Sharna mentioned also going to conferences, they’re really eager for those opportunities, thirsty for that learning, because they know that they’re going to play really significant roles, whether they are making their own wealth or inheriting their wealth, they can see that they are going to be, and they want to play a significant role as a change-maker in their community. And as a donor for many, many years going forward.

Michael Moody:
And so they know that they need to figure out how can I be good at this? They don’t want to be bad at it. They don’t want to just phone it in. And so they’re really proactive in searching for those learning opportunities, very eager and earnest about trying to take in what they can take in while also looking for ways of innovating. That doesn’t mean that they’re afraid to make change as we’ve already talked about. And they’re learning from their peers about ways that their peers are pushing the envelope, and they want to try to do that in their own families or in their own giving. And so that was maybe the biggest surprise for me was they did not fit that profile that you often get of the next generation from popular media. They were very eager to become the best owners they can be for a long time.

Gwen Wurst:
Thanks. Sharna, Any surprises from you, the research and the update?

Sharna Goldseker:
In the survey, we fielded last summer to capture how our next gen donors were responding to the crises, I don’t know if I was surprised, maybe I was delighted. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much next gen donors were stepping up to the challenges at hand, right? Rather than saying, this is something that the current trustees or the current advisers on my field fund will be responsible for, next gen donors said, no, this, this can’t wait, right? These are the pandemic, the economic implications of that, the racial reckoning, are all issues that are significant to today. And not just to the moment but to will affect changes for years to come.

Sharna Goldseker:
And so it’s not just about me being a donor in the future and being on the journey to prepare for that, but to be a donor now, right? To be the now gen, as you said. And so we were unbelievably pleasantly surprised to see how many donors were stepping up to give, to partner, to collaborate, to listen to what the next gen wanted to do to redouble their efforts, to really respond to the moment. And that’s been amazing to watch.

Gwen Wurst:
So Sharna, we hear your team at 21/64 often say, don’t wait, just start. Can you talk about the importance of that and any other advice you have for multi-generational family philanthropists?

Sharna Goldseker:
As Michael said earlier, many next gen donors have been volunteering and giving since the age of 15. So when we think about our kids growing up and being adults, we don’t maybe engage them until their late twenties or thirties and they’ve been giving and volunteering for 10, 15 years at that point, it’s kind of hard to believe, but they are really eager to participate often by the time we engage them. And so one piece of advice that sort of gets folded into don’t wait, just get started, is they might not want to sit at the kid’s table forever. I recall, even in my twenties, I moved back to my hometown of Baltimore from college. And a couple of nonprofits told me that they were really more engaging people who were already married with children in the life of their organizations. And I was just in my twenties and I should kind of hang out and wait till I came of age to take my turn.

Sharna Goldseker:
And frankly, I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to make a difference. And I went elsewhere to extend my nonprofit service time and talent and treasure. And so similarly, I would say, don’t wait, next gen are eager to be involved in family philanthropy and often of service to nonprofits. They don’t want to be at the kids’ table forever. And so if families can figure out ways to engage them and maybe take the pressure off that we don’t just have the trustee seat or the advisor seat to give them, but there are lots of ways of engaging next gen because they do have a plethora of interest, talents, resources, connections that they can share. And if we ask them, they’re often readily available to tell us how they’d like to be engaged and to make a difference with us.

Michael Moody:
We mentioned that we just came out with this updated expanded edition of the book in late 2020. And it includes these best practice guides for three audiences that really are deeply engaged in trying to reach out to and engage the next generation that is nonprofits, fundraisers, advisers, and families. And for each of those groups, we make some version of this recommendation of don’t wait. For nonprofits, you have to start building that relationship now because they’re to be the biggest donors you’ve ever had in the future. For advisors, you want to begin to build that relationship with the next generation of the families that you’re already working with and building that relationship with them as the adults that they are rather than just as the child of so-and-so, child of your current client.

Michael Moody:
But for families, it’s really interesting as Sharna was just mentioning, they want to be involved right now and we make some specific suggestions also around bringing the next generation in to observe your giving and give them the opportunity to be part of that giving. But even when they’re very young, the idea of observing and learning about what the family does, it has a few benefits. One is it shows them the impact of that giving and that makes them want to be more involved. Because again, they are obsessed with finding ways of making a difference, and finding, creating that impact. And so what better motivation for getting them engaged in the family’s giving process than showing them how that has had a great impact.

Michael Moody:
And then the second benefit of that is that it helps their own learning process and it gets them to start thinking about ways that they can start to innovate and bring that innovation back to the family. We have a great story in the book, John R. Seydel, who’s the oldest, grandchild of Ted Turner, talks about going on these learning journeys with his family and how powerful that was for him to learn not just about what his grandfather and the Turner foundation and others have been able to do in their giving, but also to learn about the issues himself and start thinking about how he was going to walk his own path in those big shoes that he was inheriting.

Michael Moody:
And so it really serves a great benefit to let the next generation into the family giving process, let them observe, and then start to get their own hands involved in the family giving. You can almost not start too early for that.

Gwen Wurst:
Well, thank you. I hope that we all can just get started. I can hear non-profits and I’m an advisor, but also families excited to launch. So with that, I want to thank you not only for your time today, but the research as an advisor to many families. I know that your research and your story, especially the stories in the book are very meaningful and very helpful as people chart their future philanthropists.

Sharna Goldseker:
Thanks for having us and for all the work you do.

Michael Moody:
Yeah. Thanks very much.

Gwen Wurst:
If you heard something today that sparked your interest and you want to dive a little deeper, please call us, our philanthropic advisors are here to help.

Conclusion:
To hear more from the Grow Your Giving Podcast. Visit us online at GreaterHorizons.org/podcast. Thank you for listening.


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