August 11, 2016

Authority: How it Impacts Fundraising

I`ve been thinking a lot about authority lately. With an upcoming presidential election and a new presiding bishop, I am growing aware of my own response to those in power. I wondered, how does the concept of Authority impact how we engage in fundraising.

For fun, I googled “songs about authority”. Not surprisingly, most results detailed songs about resisting authority including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They are a “Chang-in”, and perhaps most fitting for this blog, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect:”

"I`m about to give you all my money
All I`m asking in return honey
Give me my propers when you get home"

Franklin describes a desire for mutual respect when asked to give her resources.

Each generation responds to authority differently. In Generational IQ, Haydn Shaw notes that each generation has its own particular characteristics. What follows is an overview of each generation’s characteristics and how they relate to authority. (A quick caveat that these are generalizations formed from data from Pew, Barna, and Millennial Impact Studies. It’s helpful in describing large populations but is problematic when used to describe an individual).

  • The Greatest Generation is often characterized by their trust in authority, their sacrificial giving, and their desire for conformity. This generation built many of the churches we fund today out of a sense of obedience and loyalty.
  • The Baby Boomer Generation saw leaders humanized. Often characterized by a display of distrust for authority. Charity Navigator was created by Baby Boomers as a source for gathering information on nonprofits—a type of watchdog organization. Wanting transparency, this generation sought to have impact by giving not just to the church but a variety of nonprofits.
  • Generation X displays characteristics of distrust in both the authority of leaders and institutions. Personal relationships guide their giving, as many are skeptical about regular fall drives and mailed appeals
  • The Millennial Generation is characterized as seeing parents and leaders as friends and mentors. Many points of data are demonstrating that this generation holds similar giving characteristics as The Greatest Generation.

Each generation’s response to authority then prompts the question of how to meet individuals where their need connects with our Church’s ministry. If one views fundraising as ministry, then the approach we take with each potential donor in our pew may change depending on the context. In the same way one would approach pastoral care differently per individual in need, so too our parishes need to consider the needs of donors.

When describing authority ECF capital campaign consultant, Jerry Campbell, wrote:

“There are those saints who have the unique capacity to alter the outer landscape of our lives: to build the great hospitals where wounds of the flesh are healed, to erect universities and colleges where learning, education, and wisdom are cultivated, to construct concert halls and art museums where the artistic spirit is nurtured and shared, to create libraries that become repositories of knowledge and places for communities to gather and learn. Without these saints our world would be seriously impoverished.”

How has the role of authority impacted your giving? Are you more likely to give when asked by someone in a particular role or not? How has your parish adapted its stewardship strategies to engage all generations and their needs?

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