Through research and conversations online and in person, the Generosity Commission seeks to contribute to national understanding about how individual givers and volunteers are reimagining generosity in powerful and positive ways, strengthening our society and democracy in the process. The Generosity Commission believes that the more Americans explore the power of generosity and the role they can play in building a resilient society, the more likely they are to give time or treasure—in the knowledge that their generosity matters not only to their recipients, but to the health of our society overall.

The Generosity Commission will conclude its work in Fall 2024 with recommendations focused on ways that the business, nonprofit, and policy sectors can support and enable everyday giving and volunteering. Ultimately, the Commission seeks to foster a culture of individual and collective generosity in the face of the social and economic challenges our society faces today.


The Generosity Commission has supported the following research studies to contribute to national understanding research of how Americans express generosity and how to support and enable everyday giving and volunteering.

  • How We Give Now: Conversations Across the United States (Stanford PACS, 2020; Research Conducted for The Generosity Commission) reinforces the breadth and scope of generosity in America and how people choose, in many different ways, to support each other, social issues and communities. The research found that generosity behaviors reach far beyond the kinds of activities that are officially counted or incentivized in the US, like tax-exempt donations to charitable organizations, and revealed that the way we count and perceive generosity needs to change.
  • The Urban Institute’s Nonprofit Trends and Impact Survey report examined donation trends to community-based and social service organizations across the U.S. and gave us an understanding of the impact of the pandemic on these institutions. This study is the first year of an ongoing panel study which will analyze long-term effects of trends using a national representative study.
  • The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice’s research, Generosity Trends and Impacts: Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the USA, tracks the generous behaviors of U.S. adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, including formal giving and volunteering through organizations, informal giving and volunteering that are not mediated by organizations, such as helping a neighbor or giving money for a special need, and other pro social behavior, such as donating blood or engaging in political advocacy. The study tracks the trajectory of behavioral change across age, gender, education, income, and activity.
  • New audience research, How and Why We Give: Research Insights on the Aspirations and Motivations that Inspire People to Give and Volunteer, by Hattaway Communications provides insight on the mindsets and motivations of generous people of all kinds. The research also looks at barriers that prevent individuals from giving and volunteering. Drawing from a media scan, focus groups, and a nationally representative survey, the report equips leaders with the knowledge to help them better understand and participate in public discussions of generosity; more effectively communicate with and motivate their audiences; and learn audience mindsets about generosity to see how attitudes and aspirations influence action.
  • The Do Good Institute completed two research reports focused on understanding the impact of various influences on giving and volunteering behavior. The first research report, Understanding Generosity: A Look at What Influences Volunteering and Giving in the United States, explores the decline in the volunteer and giving rate through the lens of micro-level (individual, family or household characteristics) and macro-level (state and metropolitan level characteristics) influences. This analysis provides insight into the influence of variables on the decision to give and volunteer.A second report by the Do Good Institute, Social Connectedness and Generosity: A Look at How Associational Life and Social Connections Influence Volunteering and Giving (and Vice Versa), added meso-level (influences of groups, organizations, social networks) variables to the analysis to examine the social determinates of generosity, and explore the relationship between different types of civic behavior. Most notably, this report found that group membership significantly influenced giving and volunteering behavior and giving and volunteering increase the likelihood of voting in national elections.

Final Report

The Generosity Commission’s final report will share the knowledge gained from its expert Task Forces and commissioned research. And, while the focus on the Commission is on individual generosity, the report will offer concrete recommendations on the ways in which institutions —government, business, and organized philanthropy – can enable giving, and enhance the impact of giving, volunteering, and other forms of civic participation.

Through surveys, focus groups and consultations the Commission will hold conversations to inform the report. We seek to learn from everyday givers about the many ways they are reimagining giving and volunteering and to understand, from their perspective, their engagement, challenges and views of generosity. The insights gained will inform the capstone report and recommendations put forth by the Commission.

We believe that the more Americans explore the role of generosity, the power it has, the good it can do, and the role they can play, the more likely they are to give time or treasure—in the knowledge that their generosity matters not only to their recipients, but to the health of our society overall.


Given the strong connection between volunteering and giving, it is crucial for the Generosity Commission to work across sectors to understand why people choose to donate their money and time to causes they believe in. Amid signs of trouble with current downward trends in both charitable giving and volunteering, there is an enormous amount of hope. We are at a turning point where we can learn from and share the trends affecting giving and volunteering in America to support and accelerate positive change in communities.

Natalye Paquin
COO, The Rockefeller Foundation