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The $59 trillion dollar question: What will income inequality mean for the future of philanthropy?

Jan 26, 2017

The Next Idea

Michigan's philanthropic organizations are facing a changing climate of giving.

Movement of money within the nation's wealthiest families, low wages for many of today's young people, political polarization and the erosion of government safety nets are just some of the many drivers impacting how people give and how charities organize themselves.

Today's contributor to The Next Idea has been watching many of those trends and others that affect charitable giving.

Kyle Caldwell
Credit Courtesy of Grand Valley State University

Kyle Caldwell, executive director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, recently released research exploring 11 important trends affecting philanthropy.  

One of those trends is that the wealthiest people in America are passing along an unprecedented amount of money to their grown children. The latest estimate is that roughly $59 trillion will be passed across generations between 2007 until 2061.

What does that mean for philanthropy?

"The generation that currently holds this wealth is passing it on to a generation that thinks about philanthropy, social change, deeds for good in a very different way."

A likely change on the horizon for philanthropy boils down to how different the newer generation is from the older one.

"The generation that currently holds this wealth is passing it on to a generation that thinks about philanthropy, social change, deeds for good in a very different way," Caldwell said.  

The next generation wants to "do well while doing good," he said. They conflate their work life with their philanthropic life. They're also less interested in investing in institutions and more interested in investing in direct causes. They want to be hands-on and involved in the change.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about other philanthropic trends, like how income inequality will change the way non-profits and charities operate, and how the Flint water crisis is an example of how philanthropy has changed in recent years. 
 


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