Parents, Grandparents Influence Charitable Giving and Volunteering of Children, according to Vanguard Charitable and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Study

Families, Nonprofits, and Advisors Can Benefit from Understanding
Family Dynamics

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. & INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The charitable giving and volunteering behaviors of younger members of a
family are influenced by their elders, according to research released
today by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and
Vanguard Charitable. Since individual giving is the largest source of
charitable donations in the United States*, understanding the
intra-family generational dynamics that lead to charitable giving
decisions can help families, charitable organizations, and advisors to
better plan for the future.

The report, A
Tradition of Giving
, is believed to be one of the first to
investigate charitable giving behavior across three
generations—grandparents, parents, and adult children—in a single study.

“This study can help families, nonprofits, and advisors better plan for
the future,” said Jane Greenfield, president of Vanguard Charitable.
“Parents and grandparents can encourage children to give and volunteer
by incorporating more shared experiences into their philanthropic
support. Nonprofits can in turn offer those kinds of experiences to
families to attract future support. And advisors may be able to provide
better guidance to family members if they recognize the influence of
older generations on the younger.”

The study presents findings from the Lilly Family School of
Philanthropy’s Philanthropy Panel Study (PPS), the
nation’s largest and most comprehensive panel study of the philanthropy
of American families over time and across generations. The report’s
conclusions are supplemented by interviews conducted among families who
are clients of Vanguard Charitable, one of the nation’s largest
donor-advised funds. The study examines how closely parents and
grandparents match their children and grandchildren in terms of
philanthropic priorities, as well as how socio-demographic factors
explain the similarity or dissimilarity in philanthropic priorities
between parents and their children.

“Generational giving differences—among Baby Boomers, Generation X, and
Millennials, for example—receive a lot of attention, but looking only at
those differences can obscure other factors that affect individuals’
giving and volunteering decisions,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., director of
research for the school. “This research demonstrates the impact of
intra-family dynamics on giving and volunteering. It offers new insights
into the factors associated with generosity between family members and
provides a first-of-its-kind look at the transmission of giving
behaviors from grandparents to grandchildren, in addition to exploring
the parent-child dynamic.”

Key Findings

The findings point to three key patterns that influence charitable

Philanthropic priorities are strongly shaped by family behaviors.
Namely, parents and grandparents who give and volunteer are more likely
to influence their children and grandchildren to do the same. According
to the research:

  • Parents and their children give similarly to religious organizations,
    international charitable organizations, environmental organizations,
    and arts-related organizations.
  • Parents’ decisions to volunteer with charitable organizations
    positively influence their children’s decisions to volunteer with, and
    give to, charitable organizations.
  • The giving priorities of parents and their children are more closely
    matched than those of grandparents and their grandchildren.
  • Grandparents and grandchildren give dissimilarly to basic
    needs-related organizations.
  • Grandparents who are high-net-worth and their grandchildren give
    similarly to arts-related organizations.

Parents’ socio-demographic characteristics, including age, marital or
relationship status, helping behaviors and religious practices, as well
as income, wealth and education, can affect the giving and volunteering
actions of their offspring.
The study showed that the giving
behavior of children and parents tend to match more closely if the

  • Are closer in age to the children (less than 30 years older).
  • Have not experienced a marital transition (divorce, permanent
    separation, widowhood, or other relationship change).
  • Spend time helping their children in any way.

Children’s religious giving was affected by a number of
socio-demographic factors—race, gender of the household head, education,
income and wealth, and attendance at religious services. The report
showed a stronger influence on children’s religious giving by:

  • College-educated parents than by non-college-educated parents.
  • High-net-worth parents than by non-high-net-worth parents.
  • Parents in male-headed households than in female-headed households.
  • Parents in white households than in black households.
  • The attendance habits of parents at religious services. Children of
    parents who regularly attend worship services and give to religious
    organizations are more likely to give to religious causes.

Generational differences are seen in non-family estate giving to
religious and secular organizations.
The study found that people
prefer to leave their estate to relatives rather than to charitable
organizations. But secondary to family, the study showed that:

  • Grandparents prefer to leave their estate to religious organizations.
  • Parents and children want to leave their estate to secular

The study, which includes ways parents and grandparents can engage
children in philanthropic activity, is available at

“This research shows that families have much in common across
generations when it comes to their philanthropy,” said Amir Pasic,
Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of
Philanthropy. “However, it appears that those specific shared interests
and approaches diverge as new generations are added to the family over
time. Parents and grandparents who hope to influence the philanthropy of
younger generations of their family may need to focus on instilling a
commitment to philanthropy while respecting that their children and
grandchildren may choose to implement that commitment through different
causes and practices than they themselves might have chosen.”

About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable

Vanguard Charitable

Vanguard Charitable is a leading U.S. nonprofit organization that
fulfills its mission to increase philanthropic giving by administering a
donor-advised fund—a tax-effective way to consolidate, accrue, and grant
assets to charity. Since it was founded by Vanguard in 1997 as an
independent 501(c)(3) organization, Vanguard Charitable has granted more
than $5 billion to charity. More information is available at

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is dedicated
to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and
empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who
create positive and lasting change. The School offers a comprehensive
approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and
international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake
Institute on Faith & Giving and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Learn
. Follow the School on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy
and “Like” it on Facebook.

*Giving USA 2015, written and researched by the Indiana
University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and published by Giving
USA Foundation.

1Although Vanguard provides certain investment management and
administrative services to Vanguard Charitable pursuant to a service
agreement, Vanguard Charitable is not a program or activity of Vanguard.
A majority of Vanguard Charitable’s trustees are independent of Vanguard.


Vanguard Charitable
Linda Wolohan, 610-503-2947
Family School of Philanthropy
Adriene Davis Kalugyer, 317-278-8972