Reach Out Now to Secure Donors for the Future
When it comes to fundraising, it’s important to strike a balance between the younger and older generations, says Jeffrey Solomon, president of the New York-based Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a family of charitable foundations that operate in the United States, Canada and Israel and aims to encourage young people to strengthen their knowledge of heritage and support programs in Israel.
“The challenge for an organization is that they see that older people — over age 50 — are the core supporters of most charities,” Solomon says. “[They need to see that] the needs of their children [also] need to be met.”
Solomon manages the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies’ global team and oversees annual investments and grants ranging between $15 million and $30 million.
Colleague Sharna Goldseker, vice president at Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, focuses specifically on the next generation. She directs 21/64, a division specializing in next-generation and multigenerational strategic philanthropy. The name represents the division’s multigenerational approach: The number 21 symbolizes the time when young people come of age, and 64 is the age when people begin to think about their legacies.
Goldseker says the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of America is just around the corner — and organizations must start to think about that. By the year 2052, baby boomers and their parents will have passed on to their heirs approximately $40 trillion.
She says it’s important to understand the differences between the generations and that many in the nonprofit world don’t know much about Generations X and Y, the children and grandchildren of baby boomers.
“Young people are less interested in formal membership,” Goldseker says. “They are not interested in paying annual dues and attending meetings or buying benefit tickets.
“They are into the more informal,” she explains. “Online communications, taking a class, talking informally at dinner parties.”
The good news, Goldseker says, is that the younger generation hasn’t lost interest in charities.
“They lived through Columbine, the tsunami, 9/11. They care; they just have a [different] way they do it,” she says, explaining by way of an example that younger donors used social-networking site Facebook Causes to contribute to recent disasters.
“The power of their $5 or $1 [gifts] generated millions of dollars,” Goldseker says. “It’s different than a major gift.”
Here, Solomon offers some tips for reaching out to younger generations.
1. Invite young adults onto your boards and staff. “Many nonprofits don’t bring young adults into key positions,” Solomon says. “Boards tend not to be diverse. Age diversity is pretty significant. It gets the younger generation involved in your cause.”
2. Young people don’t want to just write checks. Generations X and Y aren’t ready to hand out their cash without knowing exactly what an organization does, how it does it and how their money will be put to use.
“Get them involved, and let them see and fully understand the impact of their contributions,” he says. “They’ve grown up in the information age and have a great mistrust of institutions. Let them get to know you.”
3. Be genuine. “Authenticity counts with this generation,” Solomon says. “We call it ‘the comb over’ when an organization tries to make itself look younger or hipper without really doing anything else. It’s got to be authentic.”
4. Ask them how they want to be involved. Solomon says organizations should find out what types of projects younger folks are interested in. “So many organizations don’t do that,” he says.
5. Pay attention to the older folks who are donating now, but pay at least as much — if not more — attention to the next generation of givers. “The smarter organizations will invest more time creating connections to the younger generation,” Solomon says. “Returns on those investments may not be seen for years, but you’re building your base for tomorrow.”