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Young Evangelical Donors Have Trust Issues

The donation preferences of American evangelical Christians are changing. Younger evangelicals—those younger than 40—are more likely to target their largesse beyond their immediate communities and less likely to trust organizations that solicit their contributions, according to The Generation Gap: Evangelical Giving Preferences, a new study from Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter Research.

Younger evangelicals are also more likely to donate to a wider swath of organizations, with nearly half (49%) giving to at least five nonprofits. In contrast, fewer than one-third of evangelicals older than 40 (31%) spread their donations beyond a small set of organizations with which they have a previous relationship.

The under-40 set is also more likely to look beyond their immediate surroundings when it comes to their targeted nonprofits. More than one-third (34%) prefer giving to overseas causes as opposed to domestic nonprofits if the perceived need is greater, compared with 28% of older evangelicals. If anything, older evangelicals tend to have a hyperlocal focus, with only 26% willing to look beyond even their local area, compared with 47% of younger donors.

The younger evangelical silo is also a tougher market for nonprofits to crack. Only 35% of younger than 40 evangelicals are willing to trust an organization’s bona fides right off the bat, compared with 42% of their older compatriots.

On the up-side, both younger and older evangelical donors are open to learning about new organizations, with 41% of younger evangelicals willing to do so compared with 45% of older evangelicals.

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As the under-40 set increases its value to nonprofits, organizations that draw on the evangelical population will need to focus on stronger retention strategies aimed at cultivating what might currently be a lower present-day value cohort. Evangelicals younger than 40 have explored more options and are going to be wooed by a wider circle of potential recipients as they age. The most successful organizations wooing them will touch these donors on a greater number of channels, and with constantly refreshed messaging that keeps them engaged.

Successful organizations—even blue-chip organizations—will have demonstrated their trustworthiness to these funders, rather than merely relying on preexisting brand equity. In some cases, nonprofits might need to rely on radically different solicitation approaches from those that have worked in the past.

The younger generation does share at least one key attribute with its older brethren. Those under 40 are almost as likely to be swayed to give in the spur of the moment (39%) as their older compatriots (43%).

The findings are based on surveys of 1,000 evangelical Christians.

For the purposes of the study, evangelical Christians are defined as individuals who agree with all of the following: The Bible is the highest authority for what they believe; it is important for them to encourage non-Christians to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior; Christ’s crucifixion is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of their sin; and, trust in Christ as their savior is the only path to salvation. The study was limited to those who did not identify as members of the Mormon, Orthodox or Roman Catholic faiths.

This article was first published by The NonProfit Times. It is reprinted with permission.

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