One Family Foundation Can Teach Nonprofits About Bringing New Generations into the Giving Fold

The smart, dedicated people who have devoted their lives to improving the world through service recognize there is a problem that’s spread to every corner of the non-profit economy. It’s more than a problem. DonorSearch Senior VP Nathan Chappell believes it to be so serious he named the book he recently co-authored after the issue at hand—The Generosity Crisis.

The book does more than explain the challenges facing nonprofits today. It also offers solutions. These require a reimagining of standard nonprofit practices, and the crucial data DonorSearch provides to every client. Combined, powerful ideas and the data to put them to work, enable nonprofits to achieve the fundraising success needed to support their essential missions.

         Still, like any vexing dilemma, multiple negative factors account for the generosity crisis. As explained in the book, one of the biggest is the decline of organized religion in America. Self-identified Christians have fallen from to 63% from 75% a decade ago, according to a recent Pew Research survey. What’s more, three out of every 10 Americans has no religious affiliation whatsoever. Churches and synagogues have always played a prominent role in America’s tradition of giving, so a loss of faith translates directly into a loss of philanthropy.

Another lesson from The Generosity Crisis is that generational giving has significantly fallen off in the last few decades. It was once a given that wealthy families would support their favorite charities year after year. That isn’t a foregone conclusion these days, much to the detriment of nonprofits counting on such support. As Chappell explains, “There are many things that have contributed to the breakdown of generational giving. These include increasing rates of divorce and a more secular culture. Nonprofits of all types, not just those that enjoyed past generational support, can now inspire a new tradition of giving in America—if they approach the right people in the right way.”

One important way nonprofits can learn about fostering generational gifting is to look at those organizations that successfully encourage it. That’s what Chappell did in The Generosity Crisis by interviewing Patrick McCrory, Chairman of the Raskob Foundation. If you don’t know who John Jacob Raskob was, you may still know some of his many achievements.

Raskob was the driving force behind construction of the Empire State Building, one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City. And if you’ve ever bought a car and didn’t pay cash, you can thank Raskob. He created the modern car loan by establishing General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). Later in life, Raskob also established a foundation to help worthy catholic causes around the world. Since 1945, it has donated $200 million for everything from repairing nursing homes to building summer camps for children.

Since its inception, the Raskob Foundation has been a family affair, and this is where it has valuable lessons for nonprofits seeking to build a tradition of giving. The Raskob Foundation currently involves more than 80 members representing three generations of the extended family. To organizations not based on a blood relationship, this may seem to be “easy street.” After all, finding the next engaged person to join the mission is as simple as consulting one’s family tree.

But Chairman Patrick McCrory believes their winning approach to engaging the next generation in the Foundation’s noble works can be applied to other organizations, too. As McCrory explains, “In our family foundation we have a saying that’s at the core of what we do. It’s that every one of the family members involved possesses a piece of the wisdom. What’s important about that core belief is that it requires everyone to speak, and it levels the playing field. It also doesn’t allow for grandstanding; it requires that those that may know more about a particular topic to share the stage.”

         McCrory knows this principle can be applied to organizations without familial connections, because he helps his clients foster just such a culture of generational giving within his wealth management practice. As he explains, “I hope on some level I provide witness, like my relatives did for me, to my clients. My goal is to truly inspire them to create a legacy of giving within their own families, as I have always had in my own.”

To this point, McCrory recognizes how many people who have become wealthy still need support in generating a culture of giving within their family. This is where DonorSearch comes in as we well know organizations are much more successful at creating generational ties to donors when talking to the right people. And finding those individuals to build a lifelong gifting tradition is what DonorSearch partners with tomorrow’s nonprofits to achieve.

         Even so, DonorSearch Executive Vice President and Co-Owner Sarah TeDesco explains “traditional wealth data” doesn’t necessarily include people deeply engaged with an organization’s mission. As she explains, “Younger donors often build considerable wealth without being SEC insiders or having traditional wealth assets like a large home. That’s why DonorSearch goes beyond ‘traditional’ wealth data to include Crunchbase, social media, even peer-to-peer giving to show the total picture of modern wealth.”

It’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking from DonorSearch that enables nonprofits to understand their community in profound and actionable ways, as well as to communicate with them in manners they prefer. As Tedesco says, “From the beginning of DonorSearch engaging with a nonprofit, we bring new information to the table. From the DSAi insight score to the importance of matching consumer behavior by introducing personalization, we’re dedicated to aiding nonprofits create a new culture of generosity by finding key prospects and strengthening their bonds to an organization and its good works.”

         If you want to learn how we can help you create a new culture of generosity around your organization, please schedule a call with our expert team today. Also, if you’ve worked for a nonprofit and are interested in a new career helping more nonprofits become successful, visit our careers page.

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