A chart showing what percentage of respondents consider themselves philanthropists: 45% of all respondents; 35% of Baby Boomers; 48% of Gen X; 74% of Millennials

The Future of Philanthropy in 2021, Fidelity Charitable Study

Our client Fidelity Charitable recently released results of a study we conducted for them, which looked at the evolution of donor motivations and behaviors due to the events of 2020. We pulled insights from 4,000 donors to identify the trends shaping philanthropy.

  • Overall, we found that there has been a paradigm shift from charitable giving to charitable living. Social good has become a key factor in daily financial decisions, and giving is now more accessible than ever.
  • The idea of who can be a philanthropist is undergoing a transformation—and Millennials are driving the change. The younger generation is reclaiming the identity of “philanthropist” for themselves and other everyday individuals working to improve the world. Nearly three-quarters would describe themselves as a philanthropist—compared to only 35 percent of Baby Boomers and 48 percent of Gen X.
  • 2020 compelled donors to adapt their approach to giving. Many donors reframed their thinking around which challenges are most important for society to solve, placing a higher priority on economic development, hunger and racial inequity than they did previously.

A chart depicting changes in donors opinions about that top issues for society to solve between early 2020 and early 2021. They placed increased importance on hunger, economic development, and racial discrimination.


  • We also became more comfortable with and reliant on virtual tools during the pandemic, and it may have accelerated digital trends in philanthropy.

Methodology: In March 2020, we surveyed 3,055 adults in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2019. A follow-up January 2021 survey among 830 philanthropic individuals in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2020 detected shifts in donor thinking due to the events of that year.

Learn more on the Fidelity Charitable 2021 future of philanthropy page, which provides links that allow you to drill down into facets of the research and its implications. For more insights into the effects of the 2020 crisis on giving, learn how COVID-19 impacted volunteering.