The Chronicle of Philanthropy has made the state of giving in the U.S. dismally clear and the news based upon their studies is that Millennials are hardly giving to charities at all and are even more restrained in giving to religious or faith-based charities. The actual numbers are:
• Religious giving made up 32% of charitable donations in 2016.
o That is down from 45% from 1996, a 25% decrease.
• People who regularly attend a worship service give more.
o Those who regularly attend services gave $1,848 annually to religious organizations and also gave additional amounts to other non-religious charitable organizations.
o Those who are not connected to a church give $695 to all charities annually, down 37% from 1996!
o Those who attend church less than once a month gave only $111 annually to religious institutions. Their primary giving was not to religious organizations.
• Protestants on the average gave $2,809 annually to their churches.
• The older, wealthier and better educated are more likely to give:
o Almost 50% with an education above a bachelor’s degree gave to faith-based organizations.
o Only 31% of those with a high school diploma gave.
o Ages 40-64 gave $2,505 annually.
o Adults under 40 gave just $236 to faith-based organizations.
But they have not given up on Millennials (and neither have I) because they can and do become great givers when a cause strikes their passion. I would also add that the Millennials are young and have not had the years to acquire and build up wealth, even excessive wealth for some, as in the case of the Boomers. Boomers should not forget that the previous generations had a lot of doubt about the Boomers taking over; after all, Boomers were the flower children, the hippies, the initial drug culture, the Vietnam War protesters, and a lot more. While the jury is still out on the collective wisdom of the Boomers (only history can really tell), it is fair to say they were probably not the dismal failures many expected. Be patient and let God work on Millennials’ hearts. The Chronicle of Philanthropy suggests that efforts be made to engage their passions.
Whether for the Millennials, the GenX crowd or the Boomers, passion about a cause matters. Jesus always knew that, perhaps because we were created that way.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It is, and has always been, a matter of the heart!
That point is proven out by marketing experts and is being applied successfully in ministries and charities throughout the U.S. Take, for example, the advertisements of the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and their extremely heart-wrenching adds this past winter and ever winter showing freezing, shivering dogs sitting in the cold and snow as they ask for a minimal monthly commitment. Do they show hundreds of dogs? No, they select one, two or three to have a long enough view of each shivering suffering animal.
The Christian charity World Vision uses a similar approach having realized that if they show a picture with a thousand starving malnourished children, your heart-string are tugged, but it is too overwhelming and not individual enough. The door to the heart is by showing one or two starving emaciated children with their ribs clearly visible. That really sticks to your heart. Then you are offered the opportunity to pay for and sponsor one child. See Sponsor a Child. That is a manageable task for a limited monthly commitment.
Those approaches strike the hearts and ignite the passions of almost anyone with a heart. They are fabulously successful promotions.
Passion works. The Chronicle of Philanthropy agrees with that approach, especially for Millennials, noting that no one should give up on them, instead, redesign the approach to direct any appeal for funds towards individual passions.
What happens when you do that? The listener is touched and may pay closer attention. Then more pictures or videos and their hearts are reached. Donations start, followed by contact that shows progress being made and donations appreciated. Donations continue and perhaps are even increased as the passions remain ignited and the heart remains engaged.
That is no different that if you invested in a neighborhood business. You check it out more often, walk in more often, buy more often and talk about it more often. You are engaged and your interests are in play. How important is that? Why do you think businesses large and small give out the tenth purchase free or discounts if you join their loyalty program. They get your email and your street address, you get flyers and emails, and you remain in touch with their delicious, or useful, or convenient, or practical, or beautiful product or service. It is for the business and for you, a win-win situation.
If your passion is the hungry uneducated children of a small mission village you have visited on a mission trip, a long-term engagement allows you to help even when you are at home, and it allows the children to benefit. If that happens to be your special passion, then it is a spiritual win-win. To make matters even better, you are far more likely to make as second and a third and then a regular trip – to see what has been accomplished.
God made us that way. We are always on His mind and He is always in our hearts through His Holy Spirit. He is a giver and we are made in His image – we are born givers. It is the greed and the attitude of a supremely selfish world that makes us hold onto our stuff so tightly. As God gives us His heart and love, we are to give our hearts and love to Him – followed by our hearts and love to our neighbors.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In these circumstances, it is easy to see that we are most like God when we are loving and giving. That is a goal that is guaranteed to make us joyful, regardless of our generation.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. -He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.