A Tradition of Giving
Isaac H. Taylor and his bank account were devoted to Israel. His donations, funneled through the Jewish National Fund, helped pay for numerous projects there, including the planting of thousands of trees and the construction of Yad Kennedy, a memorial erected just outside of Jerusalem following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
A few years ago, when the memorial needed a face-lift, JNF knew exactly where to turn. The century-old, New York-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and developing the land of Israel decided to contact the families of the original donors, including Isaac Taylor’s son, Dr. Irving Taylor.
“The memorial was getting shabby,” Irving Taylor says. “JNF approached me. I agreed to do it in memory of my father. I’ve followed up on many of the things he did.”
This is just one approach JNF has used to keep families connected to the organization, says Diane Scar, JNF’s mid-Atlantic zone director.
“It’s certainly something we appreciate so much,” says Scar, a fundraiser for close to 25 years, 17 of those for JNF. “Having the next generation — our goal is to maintain family continuity.”
As belts tighten and the cost of acquiring new donors increases, many nonprofits are recognizing the value of intergenerational fundraising — building on one donor’s loyalty to make new donors of the next generation of family members.
But too often, organizations get stuck in the mind-set of only focusing on older donors — the people giving now, Scar says.
“You have to engage [younger generations],” she says. “That money is going to be transferred in a few short years. In a few short years, they’ll be the ones controlling the family checkbook.”
Scar offers these tips to organizations looking to turn today’s children and grandchildren into tomorrow’s donors:
1. Engage the entire family.
Families need to be involved from the start. Donors and their families need to be invited to meetings and events, and told how much their contributions are needed and appreciated, Scar says, adding that it’s also important to build trust.
For example, she offers the story of one JNF donor, a Holocaust survivor, who helped establish a park outside of Jerusalem. Instead of having the park dedicated in the donor’s name or that of her late husband, Scar encouraged her to dedicate the green space to her children and grandchildren.
“As the kids are getting older they will go over and see it,” Scar says. “[There will be] a greater sense of loyalty to the organization and to Israel. You’re bringing them into the fold.
“In this case, the philanthropy aspect was still focused on by the older person,” she explains, “but it did get the younger people interested in learning more about the organization.”
And even though the younger family members don’t have the assets to donate now, they eventually will.
2. Don’t shut any doors.
“Sometimes, families are looking to create their own niches,” Scar says. “I think it’s great — but always provide them with the information [about your organization].”
People change their minds and could end up coming back to your organization, she says. As potential donors age, they might decide they want to continue the legacies of their grandparents.
And don’t think 11 or 12 is too young to start getting someone involved with an organization. JNF engages tweens — roughly ages 10 to 14 — through “mitzvah projects,” Scar says, encouraging girls and boys who are about to celebrate their bar/bat mitzvahs to mark the occasion by developing fundraising ideas for JNF projects such as a scouting program in Israel.
“The child is so enthusiastic, and we make a big deal out of it,” Scar says. “Treat the child like a big donor for their $500 contribution. Never judge a person’s capacity by the amount they’re giving.”
Plus, engaging the children typically results in donations from the parents, as well, she explains.
3. Follow up.
After explaining a project or your organization’s message, reach out to donors and their families again.
“It’s critical. Follow-up is critical,” Scar says, explaining that potential donors need to know about the good that comes from any donation, and that every dollar counts.
4. Never turn down an invitation.
Whether it’s a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or an invitation to sit and have coffee, Scar never misses it.
“I’m big on attending family functions,” she says. “It means so much to have these families see philanthropy as an extension of their family values.
“Someone’s opening a door [when they extend an invitation],” she adds. “Always have them see [your organization] as an extension of their belief system.”
5. Show your gratitude.
Thank donors — and their families. It’s an important way for organizations to “nourish their relationship” with family members.
“Don’t thank the donor in a vacuum,” Scar says. “Sometimes we’re a little too black-and-white [when it comes to thank-you receptions]. Invite the whole family. Let them see their grandfather being honored for his contribution and how much it is appreciated.”
In the case of JNF, Scar also has the opportunity to escort donors and their families to Israel to show them how their contributions have transformed the country.
Isaac Taylor’s family connections with JNF continue to grow. Irving Taylor, who made it his mission to carry on his father’s legacy, believes his children and grandchildren will do the same.
In fact, some of his family members already are involved. His son sits on JNF’s board, and his grandson, who accompanied him on a JNF-sponsored trip to Israel, is attending more and more events.
“When I first asked him to go, he said, ‘Why should I go?’” Taylor says. “And then we went, and he said, ‘When you go again, let me know.’ It inspired him. It certainly changed his attitude.”
Scar says the Taylor family is a perfect example of how you can connect different generations to one organization.
“This is the best example,” she says, “of four generations involved and being committed to one cause — the cause of Israel.” FS