Bringing Up the Next Generation of Faithful Supporters | npENGAGE

Bringing Up the Next Generation of Faithful Supporters

By on Oct 19, 2018


This past summer, I was fortunate enough to acquire tickets to the PGA Championship in Charlotte. My husband and I made plans to go for the day and our 4-year-old son would spend the day with his grandparents.  While our son was having a great time with his grandparents, we were surprised to learn that he could have accompanied us free of charge. The PGA’s junior admission policy states:

As part of the Championship’s mission to grow interest and participation in the game of golf, juniors 17 years of age and younger will be admitted into the Championship grounds for FREE when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Each ticketed adult will be permitted four junior grounds admissions per day at no additional charge.

17 and under, free? Yes. Most places we’re lucky if 3 and under are free. But, they’re very clear about the reason behind this. They want to encourage interest from the younger generation. What better way to pass along your love of golf to your children than to share the experience of attending a major tournament together?

When discussing online strategies with faith clients one of the phrases I hear on a regular basis is, ‘we have an older constituent base’ or ‘we have an aging database’. Often times, this deters organizations from focusing on a digital strategy or trying new or different things via an online channel. My response is usually the same – how are you bringing up the next generation of faithful supporters? What strategies are you using to build your pipeline and encourage engagement from every generation?

Here are 8 ways your organization can tackle the age-old question of growing your loyal supporter base:

  1. Volunteer opportunities: Often younger constituents want to be charitable, but they have a smaller amount of disposable income. Offer volunteer opportunities within your organization and the community. You might also be pleasantly surprised with the talent that they can share with you.
  2. Offer leadership opportunities: Many organizations are working with young professionals via a Junior Board. Junior Boards, or other leadership roles, help cultivate the next generation of leaders committed to your organization. They can also open new networking, event and philanthropic support opportunities.
  3. Review your events:  What kind of events or retreats do you have and who are they targeted towards? Are there opportunities to have parents bring their children to events or retreats with free or very discounted tickets? These types of events and retreats should be fun and meaningful for all ages. You can also focus on incorporating more relationship building across generations.
  4. Inter-generational mentor program: A mentor program can help make your organization more personal. When different generations connect there is an opportunity to share history, values and it benefits both mentors and mentees.
  5. Recognition: We all know recognition is key. When you’re recognizing your current supporters, offer opportunities for their children or grandchildren to take part in the experience. They’ll have a greater sense of pride for the work their parents or grandparents are doing with your organization and this is a wonderful way for them to share their passion and values.
  6. Make it easy:  Be present online and make it easy to connect with you. In 2017, we saw that 21% of donations occurred on a mobile device. Ensure your donation website and donation forms are responsive and mobile friendly. Regularly update your website\Facebook page\Twitter with information to keep people coming back.
  7. Communication: Review your communication plans and channels. Realize that two-way communication is important for the younger generation. Ensure you’re providing outbound information as well as offering ways for individuals to be part of the conversation. Also, segment, segment, segment. Personalize and tailor your communications to the target audience.
  8. Find gaps: Many organizations have engaged children and teenagers, but after high school engagement drops. Identify and create strategies to address the gaps to continue the lifelong relationship with your organization.

My recommendation is to review the gaps first as this will help identify opportunities. Start small by picking 2-3 new areas a year, implement, test, analyze what’s working well and make changes for the following year.

Learn even more about engaging the next generation of supporters in Blackbaud’s webinar “How to Find and Cultivate Faithful Young Donors”  Watch Now!


Lauren Crawford has worked in the social good community at Blackbaud for the past 11 years. In her current role as a Customer Success Manager, her focus is partnering with faith-focused organizations to successfully further their missions and drive strategic outcomes.

Comments (12)

  • Heather says:

    Interesting read. We are struggling with aging donors…

  • Renee says:

    great article! Big struggle for our organization as well.

  • Beth says:

    we also struggle with the younger generation, but how long do you actual have to wait for them to become donors. Many younger generation are used getting things for free and sometimes don’t see the connection between the real cost and supporting the non-profit.

    • Lauren Crawford says:

      While there is no standard time, they key here is creating ongoing interest and loyalty from an early age. This isn’t much different than children following the favorite sports teams of their parents or having similar tastes in music or food. Look at how the individuals are volunteering with your organization or what types of events they’ve attended. If your supporter volunteers at the soup kitchen, you can appeal to them for a donation support of the soup kitchen, and they’ll already know and understand why that need exists. This is also a great opportunity for a sustaining gift. Often times, a gift of $5 or $10 a month is easier for those with a smaller amount of disposable income each month. Plus, they’re probably already used to paying $10.99 a month to stream music and movies.

  • Courtney says:

    Great article. This is an area that my organization is struggling with as well.

  • xochitl says:

    our org is a youth org, good pointers

  • Dawn Stockton says:

    I am going to share this with my team. Involving children and teens in volunteer opportunities is a great idea!

  • Karen Tuecke says:

    Thank you for sharing these ideas. I like the mentoring program and it could fit well for my organization.

  • John Mercer says:

    This is great advice. Thank you. I think that most of us are not doing enough (anything) to prepare for the next generation of donors. Many of our organizations’ digital footprint is limited or nonexistent. I think that there is a strong argument for appealing to the donors that we have (older people), but we all need to make time to begin implementing some ideas to reach younger people or we’re going to find ourselves with few donors and prospects in the future.

  • Ann Nischke says:

    Working with high school students, this is a great focus!

  • Barb says:

    I think many organizations have this struggle. Good advice!

  • Julie says:

    Good article! Engagement is hard with the younger generation who have received so many things for free and do not see the value in giving back.

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