Provocateur logo2.png


Andrea McManus, ViTreo Group Inc
October 23rd 2018


Out of all the significant disruptions we now see in the fundraising sector, some of the most impactful are behaviours by young and immensely wealthy philanthropists. Just as the larger group of millennials to which many of them belong, one of those behaviours is to challenge the status quo. To ask Why. They want to understand impact and scale.

This group of new philanthropists is concerned — they perceive many not for profits as inefficient and ineffective, slow and unresponsive. They want to see innovation and solutions and dislike bureaucracy. They are essentially libertarian in nature, have an inherent suspicion and worry about NPOs and particularly those who have been around a long time. Why are they still here if they are looking for solutions? Why are they not working together?


Tomorrow’s Philanthropist wants to see larger degrees of change. Instead of isolated impact — small change from conventional (isolated philanthropy) — they desire collective impact — large scale change.

Inside Philanthropy says ….“the ranks of those philanthropists who are instead focused on systemic change has lately exploded. Disruptive philanthropy may be over a century old, but it’s now practiced on a scale never seen before in U.S. society. This trend, too, is likely to accelerate — especially as more philanthropy emerges from a tech sector filled with restless innovators. Of the $2.5 trillion in assets held by the Forbes 400, as much as a quarter of that wealth is in the hands of tech billionaires. Some, like Jeff Bezos and the Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have yet to put philanthropy at the top of their to-do list. When this happens, the face of large-scale giving in America will likely be further transformed. (source: What's different about the new philanthropists if anything)



But if we dig deeper and look at this phenomenon from the other side of the equation, do we need to be concerned? Some of these ‘billionaire philanthropists’ such as Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have the ability to wield more power than elected officials, writes David Callahan, author of The Givers, Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. Callahan goes on to say, “Philanthropy has become a power centre and in some areas, is set to surpass government in its ability to shape society’s agenda. …This power shift is one of the biggest stories of our time.”

Think about this. Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft, Jeff Bezos, the man behind Amazon, and the investor Warren Buffet own as much wealth between them as the poorer half of the American population…..The trio are the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt of the modern age.  Second Gilded Age The Bezos and the Gates of the world can decide to do whatever they want with their vast fortunes. They have the ability to wield enormous influence and to advance their own interests — impacting the rest of us. (The Givers explores this in-depth and is an excellent read. I would highly recommend it.)

On the other hand, I applaud this group. I think the desire to examine the reasoning behind decision-making is critical to developing sound strategy. And donors should question strategy before handing over their dollars.

RECOMMENDED READS ON THIS TOPIC:   Plutocrats - By Chrystia Freeland The Givers - By David Callahan


Plutocrats - By Chrystia Freeland
The Givers - By David Callahan


Some say we’re in a second Gilded Age, that we’ve been here before — with the robber barons at the turn of the last century giving vast amounts away while millions struggled to put food in the mouths of their families. The establishment of those big family foundations – Rockefeller, Carnegie, McConnell – had a direct impact on the evolution of how fundraising was conducted. What have we learned from history, and how can we as fundraisers adapt our fundraising efforts? Did the men working in terrible conditions in mills care about the libraries and museums that would benefit generations to come?

With the millennial cohort set to receive the biggest wealth transfer seen yet, what can we do to help them ensure they get the collective impact they seek? How can we assist them with finding ways to benefit the many and develop strategy to ensure their donations leave legacies for more than just the few?

It can be challenging and takes time to do philanthropy well especially in a large impact high impact way. There are those who are already having big impact, those that are trying to, but haven’t succeeded in having the impact they sought and those who hadn’t found the right pathway, states Callahan in The Givers.


That is our task as fundraising professionals. To help others to do philanthropy well, to ensure their donations, large or small, make a difference. There is an incredible opportunity with the amount of wealth transfer about to occur, for philanthropic efforts to provide real benefit. Donors often need help on figuring out who to give their money to, and how.



We need to forego traditional methods of marketing to millennials and meet them where they live. Not for profits must add digital channels to their donation cultivation and engagement efforts. Communicating with them through social media is the route we must take, and nonprofits must infuse mobile technology throughout their fundraising. This includes using mobile tools, such as mobile bidding and auction software, Text2Give, online donations, and social fundraising platforms. Millennials will have no patience for paper forms, bid sheets and old school giving formats……Engagement is the first step in the donor journey. …Cause marketers should be thinking now about how to engage this unique generation using technology and communication in novel ways. (source: Millennials poised to become big donors)

The key thing here is to adapt. We must always be adapting and questioning and developing innovative strategies for connecting with our audiences. What has worked in the past will no longer be effective.

If you’re interested in learning more about how millennials are disrupting philanthropy, read our recent blog or listen to our podcast, Millenials are people, too.



Andrea McManus, Chair, Board of Directors, Partner
ViTreo Group Inc

Andrea McManus is a Partner with ViTreo with over 30 years’ experience in fund development, marketing, sponsorship and nonprofit management. A highly strategic thinker and change maker, Andrea has worked with organizations that span the nonprofit sector with particular focus on building long-term and sustainable capacity. 

Andrea McManusComment