The New Donors and
A new breed of donors, both large and small, and the philanthropic institutions they have created and influence are exactly the constituency that is most attracted to our vision of the university as an engine of innovation, attacking the world’s biggest problems with an entrepreneurial mindset. To the extent universities choose to move toward this vision these “new donors” should be willing supporters. It is unlikely, however, that universities can count on them to endow the status quo. It is with a sense of urgency that the new donors seek novel, valuable, high-impact solutions.
So who are the new donors and what do they choose to support? Ironically, they comprise both the most and least affluent segments of the university’s donor pool, but both segments are worthy of attention. At the top they have been called “philanthro-capitalists.” They are recently minted multimillionaires and billionaires represented by the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson. At the bottom are millions of individuals linked together in increasingly complex social networks who want to make a difference in the world by making small contributions on a regular basis using PayPal or their credit or debit cards. Together these two groups constitute a multibillion dollar constituency that universities must understand and be prepared to address. At the most basic level, the new donors are the customer of the future, and universities must have a product to sell them.