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A Development Generational Truism: People give to the future, not the past. The past only earns you the right to ask again.

Paint a picture of the future

As we go through the years and see generational trends affect our giving strategy, I have seen this truism come to be part of our development world. People become more and more concerned with what the gift will DO. And they become less and less concerned with what you as an organization have DONE.

In the Builder generation (age 65 and older now) they used to have appreciation banquets and events. They celebrated the generosity and stewardship of the giving family to the church or the ministry. Then Boomers came along and found that this was too wasteful of their time and donor money. Their feelings were best expressed as, "If you are going to take my time to get a babysitter, go to the banquet, eat a rubber chicken dinner, and listen to a host of boring speakers, the least you can do is accomplish something for the future." Rude maybe, but quite true in a Boomer perception. And so appreciation events went away.

Giving to the future has both a positive and a negative aspect to it. The positive is that people give to the future as they are inspired to follow a leader. Where there is no vision, the people perish is a well-known verse in scripture. It shares the truth that people are wanting to be lead, they want to give to something going forward, to something making a difference.

The negative is that the inherent feeling behind it is, "what have you done for me lately?" This is from the reaction to the medias built up belief that nonprofits must be watched or they will waste money. The past ministry success can be a platform, but it can be a very fragile one.

The positive aspect reminds us as development officers that we must always be leading our donors and stewards to the future. The future is where people will be touched, changed, healed and fed. We celebrate the past accomplishments, but no amount of generosity will affect the past. This generation of givers wants to make a difference NOW.

So where and how does this truism impact our development strategies? Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

  1. In your direct mail or asking strategies always point out what the donors gift WILL do. Show how if the gift is given, the result or impact with be accomplished. Tie the giver DIRECTLY to the outcome, NOT to the organization.
  2. During a challenge at an event, always set a goal and then WHAT the goal will accomplish. If it is for annul operations, spell out what it is within operations that the gifts will be used for.
  3. On a major donor call, make sure you give them projects or needs that WILL be accomplished with their gifts. Do not give them vague or "general needs" options. Be more specific with needs and what will be accomplished when the projects are funded and implemented.

While this may seem like common sense to most of us, this trend towards future impact is one that is very important to donors today. This is especially true in churches and other ministry organizations where we have had the history of giving to the organization or the general purpose of the organization. While this is still important, with the lack of teaching in biblical stewardship, donors may be more and more results-oriented rather than giving by overall faith in the ministry as an institution. They want more evidence of results than an overall success report.

I hope this gives you some encouraging options to guide your development strategy this fall and into the new year.

Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE, CCNL