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Houston Foundation Gives How-To On Reaching Younger Donors

Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) is the star of a new study on how to reach next generation donors. GHCF started its Next Gen Donor Institute a decade ago to help budding (mid-20s through early-40s) philanthropists understand the nonprofit world and their own areas of interest. After completing that program, participants can join a Next Gen Giving Circle, which has become a force in Houston grantmaking.

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (JCP) just released a study that draws on the lessons of the Next Gen programs at GHCF and translates them into best practices for working with younger donors. You can access the study here.

There will also be a webinar covering the report on May 3. Registration is here.

This is an important topic for any nonprofit leader who is looking to the future. Right now, the average donor is in his or her mid-60s and getting older every day. It makes sense for nonprofits to focus most of their fundraising efforts on that older demographic - "Boomers With Bucks."

However, totally focusing on aging donors is short-sighted. The study quotes one set of experts who say “next gen donors” are in the process of becoming the “most significant donors ever.” One reason is that we are going through the biggest wealth transfer in history right now. Another is Next Gen's approach to giving. Studies show they are not waiting until retirement to support causes they believe in. Surprisingly, one report says, "Men between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to make a charitable donation than any other group."

Those donations tend to be smaller and younger donors are less likely to consistently support one nonprofit. However, over time they are going to change the face of philanthropy. Smart nonprofits will cultivate them now, especially through hands-on volunteer programs.

Will they continue to support your cause for years to come? Probably not. People's interests and their life circumstances change. But, if we believe that a rising tide floats all boats, don't we have an obligation to reach out to younger donors to say, "Come on in. The water's fine?"


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