Generational Giving – Know Who’s in the Pews
I was reading – which is really a miracle since that meant I wasn’t watching “The Good Wife,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” or “Parenthood” (pity me, we don’t get HBO). But, it was all in order to find out the latest research on generational giving. I am, if nothing else, a humble, humble servant of the Lord (did I mention just how humble I am?). And, hallelujah! There’s some good news (another miracle!) for the church to glean in this study.
In “The Next Generation of American Giving: The Charitable Habits of Generations X, Y, Boomers, and Matures,” (August 2013), the Blackbaud organization (which suspiciously sounds like a Jonny Depp pseudonym or the name of a drone) outlines ten findings from their study. Four directly impact the church*:
1. Most Americans give. Matures are the most generous generation. A greater percentage of Matures give and they support a greater number of causes than younger generations. On average, individual Mature donors also give more money to the causes they support.
Translation: Most of your congregations are full of Matures. The study also says that giving to places of worship rates #1 (46%) in terms of Mature’s giving priorities versus 37% to local non-profits.
2. Baby Boomers will exert an outsized influence on charitable giving for the foreseeable future. Representing roughly one-third of all adults who give, Boomers contribute 43 percent of all the dollars donated.
Translation: Most of your congregations are full of Baby Boomers too. 38% give to places of worship verses 36% given to local non-profits. In fact, places of worship leads in all generations. But, those numbers have been dropping – so no one can rest on his or her laurels.
3. Direct mail is far from dead, but it also won’t last forever. Generations Y and X are far more likely to give online, and as many Baby Boomers say they give online as via direct mail.
Translation: Do you have a website? No? Sorry, better get one up. Yes? Do you offer a way for people (especially Gen Y, X, and Boomers) to give on line? If not, now is the time, because Gen Y, X, and Boomers do give and like it or not, it is the way a lot of them prefer to donate.
4. The value of some channels (e.g. social media) is undervalued if measured by transaction metrics, as opposed to by engagement.
Translation: Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of other social media keeps people engaged. It might not directly translate to dollars given, but it does remind people – between worship experiences – that you are a congregation that is active in the community and world. And, that my friends can mean people wanting to give.
So go on out there and appreciate your Matures and Boomers for their faithfulness in giving – but while you’re at it, don’t forget Gen X and Y…they too are willing to give but you may need to remind them why they are giving and adapt to their language and habits of philanthropy.
*How the heck do you define “generations”?
Gen Y = Born between 1981-1995
Gen X = Born between 1965-1980
Baby Boomers = Born between 1946-1964
Matures = Born 1945 or earlier
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.