The values and priorities of our family are passed down to the next generation in the regular rhythms of our lives. However, there is one thing that will not be passed down without intentionality: purposeful generosity.
Generosity is one of our family values. Our kids know that in general, but they do not necessarily understand the where and why. We need to do better as a family; the nonprofit sector needs to do better, too. Why haven’t the handful of ministries our family gives to asked about our family giving priorities or if my kids are also excited about the cause? Why has the conversation been just with my husband and me?
According to a recent study, I am not alone. The Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households, published in September 2021, indicates key donors are also not talking to their families about giving. The study showed 78.8% of affluent donors do not involve other generations of their family in their giving, yet they intend to pass on 77% of their wealth on average to children and grandchildren.
Read that again. High-net-worth donors plan to pass on incredible wealth without utilizing the best tool to pass along and demonstrate their values: purposeful generosity.
If the key families partnered with your organization are not talking to their kids about why they give to you when those same kids will inherit the bulk of their wealth, it should send up a red flag. As nonprofits, we need to do better at communicating and building relationships with the whole family.
Engaging the Family
We need to change the conversation. And here’s the key: it is not self-serving. This helps your donors live out their family values in a tangible way.
So how do you change the conversation and engage the family in fundraising? Here are a few ideas about how your ministry can engage donors and their families.
- Ask key donors how they make giving decisions. Challenge them to think about involving their children or grandchildren in that process or at least sharing the reason they give to a particular cause or organization. Help donors think differently about their family generosity.
- Equip parents and grandparents. Share tools with donors to help them share their family values and giving priorities. Bill High, Founder of The Signatry, has worked with families for over 20 years to build a legacy through generosity. Bill’s generosity guide has great insights and suggestions for families.
- Offer family conversations. Invite the family to donor meetings. Include teenagers and above in giving conversations. Families will have different boundaries in these discussions, especially as it relates to giving levels, but starting a dialogue with the family can help guide generosity and values conversations for parents.
- Engage families through volunteering. Develop ways families can roll up their sleeves and help your organization. Volunteers are two times more likely to donate. Think outside the box with volunteer opportunities. For some organizations, this will present more challenges than for others. There is likely something families can do to serve together: stuffing envelopes, serving at the charity, landscaping the office, social media posting, etc. The list goes on. Get creative!
- Show appreciation. Gratitude is a critical step. Thank donors for their investment and involvement in the work. This is consistent whether you are talking to an individual, a couple, or the whole family. Thank the entire family— and include all their names when possible—for meeting, giving, volunteering, etc. Then, report the impact their gift had.
The donor cycle—acquisition, retention, engagement, and growth—is on the minds of many ministry leaders, as it should be. However, we are overlooking perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to merge acquisition and retention: the family.
Change the conversation with key donors. Help them view their generosity differently and serve their family well at the same time. Engage their children and grandchildren in your development work. See the impact for generations.