Passing down the plate to younger generations challenges Catholic family foundations

Family-based Catholic foundations are finding it difficult to pass on their faith-based philanthropies to the youngest generations who tend toward non-affiliation, reports America magazine (November). Many of the foundations supporting Christian ministries and institutions were started by wealthy individuals who then passed on the reigns of leadership to succeeding generations of their families, but this transmission is facing new obstacles as the less religious Millennial and Generation Z generations move into adulthood, writes Michael J. O’Loughlin. Focusing on Catholic foundations, he notes that there are estimates that their granting programs give more than $14 billion a year. A study by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, a philanthropic consortium, finds that younger generations of would-be philanthropists, like their peers, are motivated by issues and causes more than by institutional loyalty. “That could spell trouble for foundations that have historically supported Catholic institutions because of faith connections,” O’Loughlin writes. The study suggests that early exposure to on-the-ground ministries could strengthen the connections between younger generations and the institutional church. One solution may be found in the approach of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, started in 1945, which has moved to a membership model, where descendants of the founders can be involved as much or as little in the grantmaking process as they desire. But the model also stresses educating the younger generations in Catholic social teachings so that when they turn 18 they are able to participate in more formal ways, whether they are religious or not.