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The rise of “philanthrokids”

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Gen Z – loosely, people born from 1995 to 2010 – are true digital natives, hypercognitive and globally connected. They value individual expression and believe in the power of dialogue, they avoid labels and mobilise themselves for a variety of causes. By 2020, they will make up 40% of all customers.

Most importantly, not only is Gen Z the next generation of donors, it also wants to go out in the real world and do something. So, how are charities engaging with these so-called ‘‘philanthrokids’’?

A critical part of our work at Skating Panda focuses on helping charities innovate their funding strategies and diversify their income streams. ‘’Philanthrokids’’ will soon make up a considerable percentage of charities’ supporters so we’ve been looking at the shifting trends in giving and the related challenges.

Who are they?

Gen Z is the most tech-savvy generation to date. From early age, they have been exposed to the internet, social networks and mobile systems. This means they are used to collecting and cross-referencing many sources of information and are hyper-aware of what is going on in the world. Terrorism, the uncertainty of the economic situation, climate change, humanitarian crises. This is their daily bread.

Perhaps because of this, it is the most likely generation to stand up for what it believes is right, get directly involved and make a change. In fact, 76% of Gen Z are worried about the planet and 60% want their work to make a difference for the planet.

However, only 30% have donated to a charitable organisation.

Giving vs. giving back

This discrepancy suggests a shift in the perceived role of charities, and an opportunity for them.  

Previous generations who wanted to drive positive social change would most likely make a financial contribution to a charity focused on that cause; this generation is more likely to want to take direct action – as the figures for youth volunteering demonstrate below. So, the opportunity for charities is to support or enable that direct engagement. The lines of what ‘’giving’’ means are getting blurred. Maybe we should talking about ‘’giving back’’ instead.

Gen Z give back by supporting brands that are purposeful and sustainable, by being a responsible consumer. They value their future employer’s purpose ahead of paycheck. They engage in social protest, both on the streets and on social media.They volunteer in their hometown and abroad. They set up their own start-up, to profitably solve an issue they have at heart. They cut plastics, reduce their carbon footprint and consume locally-produced organic food. And they donate to charities they trust.

In a snapshot: the fact that 26% of those aged 16-19 volunteer shows that they value volunteering  and “giving back time” almost as much as they value giving money to a charity (30%).

Next generation of donors

We know that Gen Z are more likely to support organisations that they can put a face to or where they have actually served their time as volunteers or campaigners. So, if you are looking to engage with ‘’philanthrokids’’ our observations are:

  • Give them a message of agency: rather than asking for direct donations, hand over campaigns to young people. Let them fundraise/campaign for you and get their hands dirty. They will feel part of your charity and become your best ambassadors.
    Great examples of this approach are the UNICEF 2018 Trick or Treat Campaign and Friends of the Earth Local Group Resources.
  • Create group momentum: tap into pre-existing group networks and inspire them. When they see the people they admire and trust moving on a particular issue, they are inspired to do the same. And they will put heart and soul into it.  Not least with Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future, the school strikes movement for climate inspired by Greta Thunberg.

“Philanthrokids” are involved, they want to make a change. Most probably, they have at heart the same causes that charities support. They might not constitute the core of charities’ donors at the moment. But they will, as their purchasing power increases.

The changing nature of giving trends shows an increasingly competitive and diverse landscape of opportunities to ‘give back’ and by engaging “philanthrokids” on their terms now, charities may benefit financially in the future.

By Camilla Beretta, Strategy Executive, Skating Panda


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