Are Philadelphia’s Philanthropists Getting Younger?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently revealed that the city of Philadelphia has seen the second-biggest drop in the nation in charitable giving. Researchers poured over IRS data from 2006 to 2012 in America’s 50 largest cities and discovered that giving in Philadelphia dropped by 10.3 percent during this time period.

But before you start shaming the Philadelphia philanthropists for being stingy, you should also know that 36 of the nation’s 50 largest cities also saw declines in overall giving. But instead of blaming the recession and shifting the blame, Philadelphia is experiencing a promising trend that may help it emerge from its giving rut. Philanthropists in the city are becoming younger and more diverse.

According to a survey released by the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Greater Philadelphia Chapter (AFP-GPC), the next generation of philanthropists will likely look and act a little differently than today's established donors. Fundraising professionals in the Delaware Valley painted the following portrait of emerging new philanthropists in the city: younger; racially, culturally and socially diverse; socially tolerant; and more likely to make giving decisions based on facts rather than emotion.

Younger people in the city are becoming more civic minded, and social media has had a lot to do with that phenomenon. Thanks to technology and constant connection, young adults are learning about issues and causes faster than ever before.

In terms of race, survey respondents pointed to increases in Asian and Indian donors most frequently. Although diversity is still lacking in many aspects of philanthropy, it seems to be getting a little more equalbut slowly. Over 88 percent of donors said that as a general rule, funders are more tolerant of differences and cultures than in the past. If this sentiment stretches beyond the survey respondents and the city of Philadelphia, it would mean huge leaps for the nationwide philanthropic sector.

The younger generation of donors adheres to the mindset that you don’t have to have a boatload of cash to be a philanthropist. And socially conscious men and women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are realizing that the portrait of a philanthropist doesn’t have to depict an old white guy who gets his name plastered across buildings all around town.

But while philanthropists in Philadelphia may start to look a little different, their intentions will mostly remain unchanged. Philanthropy is still all about having a positive impact on society, and there are a lot of different ways to go about doing exactly that.