New options and new money are changing philanthropy and the approach to charitable giving.
Philanthropy isn't just for the old and ultra-rich anymore. A new generation of younger philanthropists has emerged in recent years, spurred both by the '90s stock market boom and the creation of vehicles that allow even moderately well-off individuals and families to engage in serious charitable giving.
In recent years the growing use of donor-advised funds, along with the development of new and easier ways to create private foundations, has allowed increasing numbers of people to experience the financial and emotional benefits of philanthropy during their lifetime.
"That's inspiring more people in their twenties through fifties to think about giving now," says Virginia Esposito, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. "The notion of advisors waiting until someone is close to retirement before bringing up philanthropy is old thinking."
One driving force in the change is that the financial bar has been lowered considerably. Donor-advised plans can be started with only $10,000, while some companies now offer one-stop programs that handle all of the hassles of running a private foundation-in some cases with as little as $100,000.
One of the trends is that products and services are migrating down to individuals with more moderate net worth than what philanthropy used to be about, says Eileen Heisman, president of the National Philanthropic Trust, an organization that administers donor-advised funds at several brokerage firms.
"Because the wealth bar has been lowered to $10,000, the age bar was lowered to where people can afford to be philanthropic sooner in their lives than before," she says.
The trend also is being fueled by the newly minted millionaires who came out of the 1990s with a commitment to become serious donors and the capital to do it. "Unlike the traditional philan-thropists, these aspiring philanthropists are young, more focused on local causes, and tend to be more involved and hands-on," says Sang Lee, an analyst with Celent Communications, a Boston-based finan-cial consulting firm.
That can take many shapes and forms. An example is found at Community Foundation Silicon Valley, one of a myriad of nonprofit community foundations that have established donor-advised funds as a way to fund philanthropic causes. Within CFSV is a fund spearheaded by entrepreneurs in their twenties through sixties who give both time and money to various charitable activities.
Among charitable vehicles, donor-advised funds and private foundations experienced phenomenal growth during the '90s, thanks to the burgeoning class of new millionaires. With the former, even non-millionaires can participate in sustained planned giving programs. Not surprisingly, though, the recent bear market has taken a toll on donors. According to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, total charitable giving in the United States was essentially flat in both 2001 and 2002. This followed growth rates of 9%, 7% and 11%, respectively, during the prior three years. But it's anticipated that giving levels should pick up again once market conditions improve and portfolio sizes increase.
One reason for this is that the United States is in the early stages of a massive intergenerational wealth transfer from older to younger Americans, with significant implications for the financial services industry. A study by Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute predicts a wealth transfer of at least $41 trillion during the next half-century. Of that, it's predicted that at least $6 trillion will go to charity.