Three Steps to Engage Donors Across Generations

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As the landscape of religious giving continues to shift, we would like to outline three steps to help you cultivate religious generosity across generations.

1. Congregations must find ways in which to create intergenerational opportunities to give and serve together.

The key word here is – together. Our research demonstrates that parents and grandparents continue to be the most significant voices in shaping giving among the next generation. We may have grown up watching our parents put something in the offering plates, but we often did not hear from them why they gave. As online giving grows, often many of even our most dedicated donors no longer put something in the basket as it passes. Are there ways to promote giving and serving together or equipping families with tools to “have a conversation” about giving?

2. Congregations must find ways to pair religious giving opportunities with leadership development.

While many youth and young adults may not be able to give at the levels as more established parishioners, they can however offer their time and talents as meaningful contributions to congregational life. Long-time Vice-President at the Lilly Endowment, Dr. Craig Dykstra often refers to these interchanges as the root of “sustained conversations.” True to Dr. Dykstra’s words, what emerges from these conversations and time together in sharing and value-making, is a “more vital community of faith” that is both accessible and malleable for everyone.

3. Congregations must be willing to address issues of material possessions and money matters that confront parishioners at every turn in their daily lives.

Too often, topics of money are taboo in the church unless we are trying to raise the budget. Jesus never shied away from confronting the power that money and the influence that material possessions can have over us; neither should the church. If living generously is a part of our faith formation, then we must help those entrusted to our care engage these pressing issues in our culture.


Winterbourne LaPucelle Harrison-Jones is pursuing postgraduate work at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana. A fourth-generation herald of the Gospel, Harrison-Jones holds degrees from Fisk University and Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School, and is a scholar, ecclesial leader, and author. Harrison-Jones' most recent book is: From Generation to Generation: A Commemorative Collection of African American Millennial Sermons from the Festival of Preachers 2010-2015.