Marketing to Moms: Can You Teach Generosity?

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It turns out that it is true that kids may not remember what we say, but they do remember what we do, especially when it comes to giving and volunteering.

One summer when my son was eight and my daughter was twelve, our church gave every member of the congregation $10 and asked us to multiply it over the summer and give the proceeds back to the church at the end of summer.  There were all types of activities.  Some bought gas for their mowers and performed lawn services for friends and neighbors.  Others sold food products.  

Our family pooled our money and started a summer catering service.  Since our son was small, we gave him a special job.  He was the banker – in charge of the coffee can and money.  We spent several weeks that summer providing barbeque meals to birthday parties, church groups, anniversary parties and neighborhood gatherings.  All of us worked.  We had a set menu and could make the cole slaw in our sleep.  During that summer, we had an amazing experience, making new friends and deepening relationships with old friends.  

But our best memory was of that coffee can that was well guarded by our son who kept a watchful eye on all our expenditures.  At the end of the summer, our little group turned our $40 into a $1258 donation to our church building fund.  Nothing made us prouder than seeing our son take that coffee can to the front of the church and give it to our pastor.  Today, both our son and daughter continue to be productive and giving members of society, spending lots of hours on community and church activities and donating money when needed.  And it seems that it does start when our children are young.

A 2010 Heart of the Donor study carefully profiles the American donor and gives some interesting insight on the influence of parents on giving adults. Some 90 million, or 39%, Americans gave to a nonprofit in the past 12 months. In general, men and women are equally likely to be donors.  The older the person, the more likely he or she is to be a donor.

But here is the part of the study that really caught my attention. Giving is a learned activity.  Parents who model giving behaviors seem to rear children who exhibit those behaviors as adults.

Giving to Places of Worship.   Today, 55% of those who came from parents who frequently gave to a place of worship themselves now support a place of worship, compared to 24% of those who rarely or never saw their parents give money to a place of worship.

Giving to Nonprofits.  Similar to giving to places of worship, 52% of adults who saw their parents support nonprofits are today active donors, compared to 26% of those who rarely or never saw their parents give.

Volunteering.  Some 49% who saw their parents spending time volunteering are today volunteers themselves, compared to 20% who rarely or never saw this activity.

The study identified six parental behaviors that associated with how children behave as adults.

1.  Giving money to a church or place of worship.

2.  Giving money to a nonprofit other than a place of worship.

3.  Talked to their children about the nonprofit they supported and why it was important to them.

4.  Took them to a church or another place of worship.

5.  Volunteered their time to help nonprofit organizations other than a place of worship.

6.  Encouraged their children to volunteer their time to help nonprofit organizations.

When these behaviors are present, parents have a greater than 80% chance of raising a child who turns out to be a giving person.

Why is all of this important to marketing?  Nonprofit marketers should provide opportunities for children and adults to work together in volunteering their time, their talents and their money.

Turns out that the proverb that says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” is indeed wisdom for the ages. (Proverbs 22:6).



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