Climate Change–Fundraising in Faith Communities

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Increasingly, the effects of environmental climate change are felt in North America and around the world.  The intensity of storms, drought, and temperature are having a greater impact on our daily lives and crisis planning is no longer an afterthought in regions hardest hit.

Similarly, there has been steady climate change in many denominations and faith-based organizations in North America, particularly with regard to giving and fundraising. According to the Giving USA 2013 report released in June, overall giving to religion was down last year by nearly two percent (-1.9%) after a modest post-recession increase in 2012. This does not bode well, since overall charitable giving has rebounded by another three percent (3% adjusted for inflation) to pre-recession levels, with healthy increases in several categories.

Faith Community leaders–this notable drop in giving to religion should be a matter of great interest and concern to you.

For decades, religion received the largest share of charitable giving in the United States, and still does, but to a shrinking degree. This correlates with the decline in membership and attendance in Mainline Christian Churches. However, many faith communities report that donors are increasing the amount of their monetary gifts. There are simply fewer donors in their flocks.

Here is what we know about the other climatic changes affecting fundraising and things faith communities can do about them:

  • Baby Boomers have hit middle age. They are not as active in faith communities as their parents had been, tend to view institutions and authority with suspicion. However, they generously invest their volunteer energy and charitable dollars in social justice causes and community organizations that improve people’s lives and circumstances.

Studies indicate the more people are actively engaged in meaningful ways, the more they give to those organizations. Find ways to connect with this generation’s interests by encouraging voluntarism, community-building, high quality worship and programs. This means clarifying a compelling vision that has appeal for seekers as well as the faithful. It is essential to ensure top notch membership practices and faith development programs are in place.

  • Young adults have eclectic religious and spiritual interests, many referring to themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and choosing to remain unaffiliated with religious institutions. They like the freedom to explore a variety of belief
    smart phone and moneysystems and spiritual practices and they steer away from intolerant attitudes and oppressive dogma. As a group, young adults think globally, supporting international causes that make a tangible difference in people’s lives. They are actively engaged in social networking and prefer using internet technology when making their gifts.

This represents our biggest opportunity for growth and giving in faith communities.  Faith  communities could grow and prosper if they offered what generational surveys and research tell us people are seeking and will invest their time and resources to actively support. It is important to remember that relationships are central to effective fundraising and stewardship, so always take time to get to know people and what is important to them as individuals and families.

  • Wealth is moving from generation to generation—BIG TIME. This represents over $40 Trillion passing to Baby Boomers from their parents. This makes planned giving opportunities much more timely and relevant to aging Baby Boomers.

There is no time to lose for congregations and faith-based organizations to establish and market planned giving programs! To begin with, you should have clear and comprehensive gift acceptance policies in place, as well as trusted financial advisors and legal counsel to assist you in the proper handling of gifts. Most denominations and community foundations have cost-saving planned giving services and information to help organizations and donors understand their options.

  • Today’s donors expect financial accountability, clear and accurate reporting for how their donations are used, and appropriate recognition of their gifts. There are myriad books, online resources, consultation and training available for current best practices. (Some great resources are listed below.) Get your eyes and hands on them and use them!

There is no lack of information about best practices in fundraising and no excuse for ignorance in this realm of faith community finance. Ask for help or consultation from a qualified professional if you don’t know where to begin.

We can learn new ways to adapt to the forces of change. We can equip ourselves to be better prepared for fundraising challenges by adopting current best practices before they arise. 

Laurel 2012

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE | Giving Speaks Consulting

Recommended resources:

Developing Fundraising Policies and Procedures. Barbara L. Ciconte, CFRE. Association of Fundraising Professionals. http://www.afpnet.org

Giving USA Reports.  http://www.givingusareports.org/

Religion Among the Millennials. Pew Research Center. 2010. http://www.pewforum.org

Leave a Legacy.  A toolkit compiled by Marion V. Grimes & Susan T. Siwiec, APR. Sponsored by The Western New York Planned Giving Consortium, Inc.            http://tinyurl.com/lrsj9ku

Planned Giving for Small Nonprofits. Ronald R. Jordan & Katelyn L. Quynn. 2002. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Planned Giving Resources for Unitarian Universalist congregations can be found at the Unitarian Universalist Association: http://uua.org/giving/planned/index.shtml and UU Umbrella Giving opportunities: http://uua.org/giving/47673.shtml

Calling All Generations–ready, set, GIVE!

Friends Playing on the Beach

With each new generation coming into adulthood, cultures and patterns change. A recent Giving Speaks post Religion in the Age of the Nones (http://wp.me/p1xUUk-ms ) dealt with the significant changes and trends of decreased religious affiliation among younger adults. Just as important for religious and philanthropic organizations is to understand the differences among the generations when it comes to designing giving programs and fundraising appeals. One size does not fit all!

small-shoes In America there is an unprecedented transference of $40 Trillion in wealth occurring between the aging Mature and Baby Boomer generations and their children. It is essential that those who are raising funds to support charitable and religious organizations understand the varying approaches required in working with their donors in each generational cohort. Those in the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1942 and 1960) and the Mature Generation (born prior to 1945) were motivated to give for different reasons than young adults born after 1960. The elder givers are motivated to give to help meet the needs not met by governmental programs. They support religious and community organizations and are most comfortable responding to mail appeals and face-to-face requests. Baby Boomers are hearty supporters of secular causes. They give to religion, but at lower levels than their elders.

Trends and emerging giving patterns of younger adult donors are being studied, with what makes donors tickparticular attention being paid to the relatively small group receiving the largest share of the wealth and building their own net worth. These “Next Gen Donors” will be the philanthropists of the future and the major donors in America for several decades to come. It behooves all charitable, religious and philanthropic organizations to learn more what makes these younger, higher net worth donor prospects tick.

Philanthropic research over the past five years tells us is that Next Gen Donors (between the ages of 21 and 48) are generous people. These individuals want to know their contributions go to causes that matter most to them and move them emotionally. They take a “hands on” approach to their involvement with recipient organizations, because they want to know their charitable dollars are making the world a better place. Often this involves younger adults volunteering their time and talent as well as their money.

Among those in Net Gen Donors group, most of their charitable giving goes to secular causes, with less than half going to religion. This means that religious organizations must polish their stewardship strategies and employ current fundraising best practices, being much more proactive in their donor relationships. Next Gen Donors prefer online giving and are more comfortable with solicitation through social networking media channels. Their total annual charitable giving among younger adult donors ranges from $1,300 to $2,000 on average, and the levels most likely will increase over their lifetimes.

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Stewardship strategies and fundraising practices must be adapted to meet the challenges of greater competition for charitable dollars. Generation and technological trends must be taken into consideration when planning cultivation techniques and messaging for appeals.

Here are some generational characteristics and recommended fundraising approaches:

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Younger Adults (born mid-1980’s to present)

  • Think “multichannel” communication—mail appeals (hard copy), electronic appeals (email, e-newsletters), and online giving options (websites) are the top three channels for charitable giving.
  • Check-out donations—grocery stores, coffee shops, and businesses offering charitable giving opportunities with purchases.
  • Social media appeals from charitable organizations and religious communities with whom they have a relationship—ask your young volunteers and visitors for their contact information!
  • Peer-to-peer social, networking, and fundraising events—younger donor prospects like events that bring committed people together around causes and organizations of interest.
  • Encourage volunteer involvement and other ways of engaging in hands-on service and making a real difference in their communities.
  • Appeals that include information about the organization and its priorities, a request for a specific amount, and details about how contributions will be used, and a promise of quarterly progress updates.
  • Written appeals featuring the organization’s programs and services of greatest interest and relevance to younger adults, whether they are single, partnered, or parents of young children.

Middle-Aged Adults (born between mid-1940’s and late 1970’s) SSL Montclair

  • A large segment of this generational group came of age at a time of great idealism, anti-war and anti-establishment sentiments. Their idealistic fervor persists regardless political or religious affiliation.
  • Many are disenchanted with politics and religion, preferring to work hard for charitable causes that support grand moral movements, social justice advocacy, and hands-on service.
  • A good number grew up in families affected by divorce, high unemployment, and unsure financial futures. They tend to commit time and resources to strengthening relationships and communities.
  • Respond to mailed appeals and are increasingly comfortable with email appeals and online giving channels.
  • Check-out donations and charitable gift card benefit programs are effective giving options.
  • Appeal to their idealistic interests by featuring programs and services that address major societal issues and reform causes.
  • Peer-to-peer and in person meetings and community events are very effective in asking these adults for contributions.

elder with youth Mature Adults (born prior to 1942)

  • Civic causes, philanthropic organizations, and religious institutions are important to older adults who came of age in America during the World War II.
  • Printed mail appeals with detailed content are the familiar approach for this group, and their giving response is strong. Mature donors prefer to send a check by mail to the charities of their choice.
  • Messaging that emphasizes giving back, fair share, and regular contributing language is effective in appeals.
  • Leaving a legacy matters–encourage planned giving as a means of strengthening the institution and its mission and core values for future generations.

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Resources on Generational Trends and Differences:

21st Century Faith Formation http://www.21stcenturyfaithformation.com/index.html

Bhagat, Vinay; Loeb, Pam; Rovner, Mark. The Next Generation of American Giving. March 2010. Convio, Edge Research, and Sea Change Strategies.

Campbell & Company. Generational Differences in Charitable Giving and in Motivations for Giving. Report prepared for the Center on Philanthropy. May 2008.

Chronicle of Philanthropy. Philanthropy 400 Reflects Generational Shift in American Giving. October 17, 2010. http://philanthropy.com/article/A-Generational-Shift-in-Giving/124937/

Giving Speaks blog posts on multigenerational giving and generosity, and by age group.

Johnson, Grossnickle & Associates. Millennial Donors: A Study of Millennial Giving and Engagement Habits. Achieve. 2010. The Millennial Impact Report. http://www.themillennialimpact.com/research-2012