The Generosity Commission will explore profound questions that will shape the future of giving, volunteering, and the many forms of civic engagement in America. Through fresh research, the creation of a national conversation around generosity in America, and concrete policy and practice recommendations, the Generosity Commission will celebrate and inspire generosity across America by providing insight into the central role it plays in our society, its shifting nature, and the ways it is being reimagined across generations and communities.

The Generosity Commission’s work will be informed by academic research and community insights and feedback. The Generosity Commission began its work in 2018 with a series of extensive literature reviews by a panel of experts from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI and the Urban Institute. These reviews analyzed the possible factors influencing the decline in traditional giving and volunteering in America and helped us validate the need for the Generosity Commission.

Through these reviews, the Generosity Commission found that while there are well-documented economic and cultural factors influencing giving and volunteering, there are also gaps in our understanding. To fill in those gaps, the Generosity Commission will commission research and launch a national conversation. Upon completion of the research, the Commission will release a report along with policy recommendations, and actions that every person and organization can take to increase generosity.

Research

The Generosity Commission has started investing in research to better understand how Americans express generosity. The first two studies commissioned by the Generosity Commission help us see how generosity improves the lives of people and communities across America. They reveal that, while trends in generosity are shifting, we are still a generous nation and benefit from each other’s generosity. These two studies form the foundation of ongoing research that is being conducted over the next year and is commissioned by the Generosity Commission to better inform how we understand generosity, how it can be fostered across America, and the extent to which public policy needs to be reformed or enhanced to encourage even greater generosity in the years to come.

  • 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. However, it also reveals that the way we count and perceive generosity needs to change.
  • The Urban Institute’s Nonprofit Trends and Impact Survey report examines how giving to community-based and social service organizations across the U.S. has been vital to American life during the pandemic. The research shows that generous people continue to be generous and highlights the risks to us and our communities when giving declines.

A National Conversation

To truly deliver on its goals, the Generosity Commission must reach beyond the core of leading institutions, decision-makers, and influencers in the nonprofit sector to the public and speak to the generosity of all Americans.

A National Conversation will engage people in a new, multi-generational dialogue about the importance of a unified commitment to generosity in America. The National Conversation will enable people from across the country to participate in this work, sharing their own insights, interests and stories to inform the overall work of the Generosity Commission. With participation from people across the country, the Generosity Commission will have a rich source of new insights and stories to share.

The Generosity Commission will bring together its research and insights from this national conversation, offering a unique synthesis of expert perspectives and broader dialogue.

Recommendations

Work is underway with policymakers and Washington, D.C.-based policy advocates to understand their perspectives, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they see.

As we begin to gain additional insight through research and the national conversation around generosity, we will formulate policy and practice recommendations, as key components of the solutions required to reverse downward trends in everyday giving, volunteering, and civic engagement.

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
President and Chief Executive Officer of Points of Light