By Whitney Brimfield
Recently, synagogues around the world read the parsha of Vayera. It’s a commonly known story: Abraham is sitting outside his tent when strangers pass by, and he rushes to welcome them. He bursts into action tending to their needs, including sending his manservant to prepare a calf for the meal. What you may not know – as I did not – is that in Rashi’s interpretation, the “manservant” is actually Abraham’s young son, Ishmael, whom Abraham involved for the express purpose of training him to do “mitzvot,” or good deeds. Abraham was making the hosting of guests a family affair.
So what does this have to do with nonprofit fundraising? I’d say, a lot.
Abraham, according to Rashi, works hard to make sure his child is involved in his charity. As we sit down to new plan our fundraising strategy for the new year, this is something that we should be thinking about too.
How can we include donors’ children in our engagement and get them involved in our foundations and nonprofits?
After all, doing so not only expresses our core Jewish values, it can also have decades of positive consequences for the organization.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
First, leverage your database. We work hard to get to know our donors, so let’s make use of that knowledge. Identify benefactors that have children and think about the ways in which you can involve them.
Giving parents a simple way to begin talking about your charitable work is an easy step for you and likely to be appreciated by them. Consider including information for kids in the mailings you send to your established donors. Encourage donors to involve their children in their giving discussions and decisions by sharing some tips on how to do it. For example, donors might consider giving their children a small amount that they can donate to your organization in their own names. Make sure these young donors get a personalized thank you letter – kids love getting things in the mail!
You can take this a step further and establish a special newsletter just for children. Think about how you can make your work kid-friendly, and show children how it affects them and the world around them. Include some kid activities – word searches, crosswords, mazes – and be sure to include keywords that relate to your work. Bright colors and lots of photos will appeal too. Highlight some of their parents and their contributions, and invite kids to send in their own contributions for future issues. Now more than ever, children are aware of, and concerned about, the world around them, so get your organization’s name out there among the younger generation and begin establishing a one-on-one relationship with them now.
Second, think about how you can bring kids to see and participate in the work you do. If your work is local, give tours of your facilities and invite kids into your offices. Better yet, have family days where kids can come out and do hands-on work on your projects. Have tchotchkes – badges, pens, stickers – to hand out to them. If distance is an issue, get creative about online platforms – a creative series of Instagram Stories can go a long way. Just as with the adults, It’s all about building a relationship with kids personally. And again, don’t forget that thank you letter addressed to the child directly!
Think about creating special projects that only kids and teens work on. A great way of coming up with things that appeal to this age group is to invite kids to have a say in the projects you do or how some of the money they raise is used. This can be as simple as a online poll or as involved as a Kids’ Advisory Council. And once you get these children involved, be sure to highlight them in both your kids’ and adults’ newsletters. The more you can give younger folks a sense of ownership in your group, the deeper their engagement and the more likely they remain committed to your organization well into adulthood.
We all work hard to build long-term relationships with our donors. But what happens when those donors pass away? Thinking about the children of our donors, even when they’re still relatively young, can help us build relationships with families that extend for decades and turns them into multigenerational donors. Consider establishing a giving plan that targets and involves the entire family, building momentum and connections with the kids and adults.
Abraham was right on the money when it came to involving his son in his charitable work. By doing so, he made sure that his philanthropic outlook was passed down to the next generation. Similarly, development professionals should build the foundation now for our donors’ children to continue in their parents’ footsteps so that we cultivate lifelong, multigenerational givers. By empowering kids, we can ensure that our organizations will continue to be supported far into the future.
Whitney Brimfield is the President and CEO of Spark Point Fundraising, a boutique fundraising firm that specializes in strategy and grant writing. Spark Point helps organizations deploy the strategies that will most effectively advance their mission and sustain their work.