We asked a dozen advancement officers to respond to the question, “How is your organization intentionally nurturing relationships with donors 40 years old or younger?” Their replies revealed an impressive understanding of the needs and desires of this age group, coupled with creativity in their various approaches.
Ruth Leaman, Hinkletown Mennonite School (Ephrata, PA): “We sponsor a business networking breakfast. About 80 local business owners attended, many of them young. The event provides connections for the school with business owners that we would otherwise not have opportunity to connect with, provides a professional presentation of the school and creates collaboration within our community. This is an entry point event for new potential donors and we have had good results in moving new business owners into support for HMS within 6-12 months of our last breakfast, including two new friends who became major donors to our capital campaign.
As a follow-up to the breakfast we have developed a mini-course on entrepreneurship, in which we take groups of students to visit some of these businesses. Students benefit from learning outside of their regular curriculum and business owners are happy to share their knowledge.”
Aaron Adelsberger, Adriel (West Liberty, OH): “We have been moving away from blanket requests for our annual fund, and doing much more in the way of purpose driven requests. This is specifically to attract and engage a younger generation of donors. Rather than just writing us a check and saying, “I hope you put it to good use,” we find that younger donors like knowing that they were a part of purchasing a new piece of equipment, or that they were a part of funding a specific program, and are more likely to respond to that request and to be engaged in a meaningful way.”
Vernetta Waltner, Freeman Academy (Freeman, SD): “We have hosted a dinner with a special program and provided child care for our local young donors, aged 20-35. One year I hosted an evening that included a supper and time to play volleyball or basketball for alumni who were getting ready to leave for college. Our annual holiday alumni fellowship includes basketball games and a time to visit with those of all ages who are in the community for Christmas. As I plan visits to specific cities or states, I try to meet with young alumni over coffee or a meal. Sometimes that is a group of college students and other times it is young couples.”
Susan Gingerich, Christopher Dock High School (Lansdale, PA): “At the senior breakfast I place a card with a penny on it at each senior’s place, encouraging them to make their first donation before they graduate by turning in the card with a $5 bill attached. I promote the Golden Anniversary endowment gift at each class reunion. This concept is to set up a class endowment with the school so that by the time the class has its 50th anniversary, it will have donated $50,000 to their class’s endowment. We provide food and space for a one-year reunion of graduates. We encourage and assist with five-year (interval) reunions for all classes each year.”
Bruce Drayer, Gateway Woods (Leo, IN): “During the summer, we have many young people spend a week or more with us. They work on our campus and interact with the residents during the day. In the evenings, there will be volunteer events to encourage fellowship. Also, every other Monday we play sports with our residents and young people in our church. These events drive participation and passion. We also keep an updated Facebook page and Twitter account. Many of our former volunteers and friends regularly check these accounts.”
Larry L. Swartzendruber, Iowa Mennonite School (Kalona, IA): “We’re using things like Facebook and other social media more. Since the under-40 crowd is increasingly mobile and more tech-savvy, we’ve also made it easier to make online donations by accepting credit cards, automatic withdrawals/deposits, etc. I continue to believe that personal relationships and one-on-one conversations are the best way to engage donors of all ages, but it requires establishing that relationship to know what method of contact and interaction is best. That applies to each and every donor.”