On average, U.S. donors over the age of 65 give more than three times the amount donated to nonprofit organizations than donors ages 18 to 24 and nearly twice as much as donors ages 25 to 34, according to Blackbaud.
So, as the donor base ages out, many organizations are faced with the dilemma of rebuilding the reserve.
To combat this issue, Jane Hargraft, chief development officer at The Cleveland Orchestra in Cleveland, and Char Rapoport Nance, director of ORT America Ohio region in Beachwood, said organizations should tap into generational giving, especially connecting with those younger generations.
“There are two reasons organizations should inspire generational giving,” Nance said. “One is for the ongoing growth of an organization. You can’t have all your eggs in one basket. Also, donors like that as well. When donors commit to something, they like to see their kids and grandkids involved in it too.”
Having strong generational ties to a donor’s family helps ensure an organization’s viability into the future.
“We all get older,” Nance explained. “If you have a single generation donor base, what do you do when they are gone? Any viable organization must have some kind of permanence in terms of its mission. For example, a campaign for a president running in 2020 may not be relevant down the road. But an entire political party, the future is relevant. For general organizations, you’d hope your mission has meaning – not in a small way, but in a larger view that crosses time.”
Organizations must inspire and connect with younger generations.
“I would be hard-pressed to find an organization that does not have a next-gen appeal, a group or something specifically oriented to the next generation,” Nance said. “Everyone has to be doing that, and they should be proud to be doing it. Any donor who is supporting you wants to know, believe and trust that the organization is viable. Everyone has to see that the only way to exist, function, thrive and grow into the future is continually bringing in donors at lower ages. We want to meet our donors where they are and that can be at whatever level. It’s about seeing it grow within the family.”
Hargraft said having conversations with each age group in a family, and keeping those groups close to the organization, is important.
“A lot of that has to do with making sure you are connected with the family in multiple ways throughout the organization,” she explained. “So, for example, it’s not just through the music director, CEO or board chair, it’s also throughout the entire staff. This allows for deep and meaningful connections across the organization.”
But nonprofits aren’t the only ones who should be having these inter-generational conversations, Hargraft added. Families should be having conversations amongst themselves.
“Those are the best conversations to have, particularly when you’re looking to have a conversation about an impactful endowment gift,” she said. “If everyone is open to doing it, let’s have a conversation about what to do. Of course, take care of your family first, second and third. But be sure to also include children and grandchildren because they can be the stewards for their grandparents’ plans. That is great for them and the community as well.”
Hargraft added younger generations can also have a better understanding of what the older generations want to accomplish with their gifts.
“For example, we were talking to the child of a major donor in their 90s,” she recalled. “When we were talking about this pretty significant gift that her mother wants to give to the organization, it was clear that she had a deep understanding of what motivated her mother. So, it’s critical to hear, understand and honor the generational impact organizations can have.”