April 21, 2015
We Attract a Certain Type. Are You It?
Post by Brittany Tedesco
The incident aired on the news one day in 2012, but it's still fresh on my mind. It involved a shocking video recording of a 68-year-old woman who worked as a bus monitor in New York. The middle school students on the bus, the likes of which must've been ejected from the bowels of some dark underworld, mercilessly harassed and bullied the woman.
No sooner did the story air than a kind soul, a 25-year-old man, started an online fund to send the bus monitor on a nice vacation. Gifts started pouring in. I don't know the final total, but this 2012 article states that more than $300,000 was raised within a very short period of time.
You might remember a more recent story of a Detroit man who walked 21 miles each day to get to and from his factory job after his car broke down and he couldn't afford to replace it. Despite the hardship, the man maintained perfect attendance for more than 12 years.
Several people jumped online to start crowdfunding efforts for him. One 19-year-old college student quickly raised $90,000 for the man, who now owns a brand new vehicle.
Welcome to the world of the "emerging donor," the ones who are generally classified as "Millennials," born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.
A marketing expert who recently visited Christian Aid Mission explained to us that this particular generation is quite different, in their charitable giving habits and otherwise, from the previous two.
The World War II generation, otherwise known as the Greatest Generation, asked few questions of the charitable organizations to which they gave. The Baby Boomers asked a few more question and wanted a little more involvement. . . but the Millennials want to be "embedded in their giving."
When they encounter a problem, like the situations listed above, they're able to respond and be directly involved, thanks to the Internet. They're accustomed to being able to see the results of their actions immediately, if not in real time.
Emerging donors are focused on making a difference, they're proactive and impact-oriented, and they expect a reciprocal relationship with the organizations to which they contribute.
If we want to reach the emerging donor, we were told by the expert, we need to figure out how to appeal to them.
"We google mapped you and saw what looked to be a shack out in the middle of the woods," Mark, a donor who'd driven all the way from Colorado last year, told me. His wife, Dot, had started giving to Christian Aid several years prior, and was surprised to receive a personal reply from Cynthia Finley, our president. Not only that, but personal notes from Cynthia on her paper receipts.
Though only able to get away from their jobs for a few days at a time each year, they both agreed that their "vacation" last year would be to Virginia to see Christian Aid Mission for themselves. Not only to make sure that we were a legit, non-shack-in-the-woods organization, but because they were personally invested.
As Dot put it, "We felt an immediate connection. I feel like this is my family."
As most of our donors do, Dot takes our Prayerline publication seriously. She begins each day by praying for that day's particular Prayerline need. Then she goes to work at her husband's law office, praying several more times throughout the day for that need. A portion of the money she earns that day goes toward the need. Her greatest burden is "that no Prayerline need is ever not receiving at least something that month."
Her husband shares her passion. He's a techy guy and enjoys giving toward items like solar panels for native missionaries in Burma, which enable them to hold bible studies after the sun goes down. Dot loves giving toward wells and children's ministries. "It's like picking out Christmas presents for people," Mark said. "Well, it's really like picking out our own Christmas presents."
Both of them mentioned wanting to be directly involved in the "bigger picture" of missions.
These donors are many things: inquisitive, analytical, impact-oriented, deeply embedded in their giving. . . but Millennials they are not.
Cecily read this story we published about a woman in Burundi who'd started a church in her home, before a heavy rainstorm ruined it. Unable to provide the full amount required to rebuild the home, Cecily stayed in touch with Christian Aid for the next year, making inquiries as to other funds raised toward the rebuilding efforts. When she was able to provide the remainder of the funds needs, she asked that this note be passed to the Burundian woman and the believers in her home:
"Dear ones in Burundi, Many months ago, I heard about the many difficulties that you have encountered, and the Lord has kept you on my heart. I am so thankful that now there are enough resources to rebuild your home. I just wanted to tell you that you are so greatly loved by the Lord. He cares so much for you, and you are very close to His heart. So, when you pass through difficulties, may you know that His heart is very tender toward you."
Cecily's pretty "embedded" in her giving. She's not, however, a Millennial.
It just so happens that our longtime donors more closely resemble the emerging donors whom other organizations are trying (without compromising their identities) to attract.
Christian Aid Mission attracts a certain type—we have from the very start. This type questions the status quo, thinks critically, and wants to use their resources strategically as part of a bigger picture.
Our founder, Bob Finley, is a pioneer in the world of missions. When he started supporting indigenous missions more than 60 years ago, no one else was doing it. Christian Aid is the first organization to assist and promote native missionaries overseas.
Those early supporters, some of whom are still supporting native missionaries through Christian Aid today, were and are on the cutting edge. While Finley was viewed by many as a threat to missions, they understood his vision. They could see the bigger picture, and they got behind it to make it work.
You can learn a lot about an organization by its supporters. What type of donor are you? If you support Christian Aid Mission, we already know.