Younger people can be major donors too, says consultant

Caroline Underwood of the Philanthropy Company says charities must change their concept of what constitutes a major donor

Caroline Underwood
Caroline Underwood

Charities must recognise that younger people can be potential major donors and invest in developing relationships with them for the future, according to the philanthropy consultant Caroline Underwood.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s major donor conference in central London today, Underwood, who is chief executive of the Philanthropy Company, said charities needed to change their ideas about what constituted a typical major donor.

This would help them to prepare for the huge intergenerational transfer of wealth that would happen as the Baby Boomer generation died off and left their wealth to their children and grandchildren, she said.

"There is a huge shift of wealth coming through and being distributed to people in their 30s and 40s," Underwood said.

"I can’t tell you how many organisations I work with that say ‘yes, major donors, they’re over here, they’re people we don’t know and they’re probably men wearing suits and probably in their 60s’."

And although such donors did exist, she said, the picture was actually more varied – there were amazing donors in their 30s and 40s, who were probably already in contact with the organisation and could be persuaded to give more.

She said charities should be investing time in finding out who would be their "next wave" of donors.

"I’m sure that you are all under major pressure from your bosses and your boards to bring in money now," she said. "I can understand that – organisations need money and they need it fast.

"But you also need to be allocating a large percentage of your time to be thinking about the next wave of donors, the next pipeline of people coming through."

Underwood pointed to legacy fundraising as a similar area where charities had invested in donors for the future and were now reaping the benefits.

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