In Between and on the Giving Scene: How Gen X is Standing out in the Philanthropic World

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Gen-Xers

Studies in philanthropy often focus on the strong fundraising presence of baby boomers as well as the increasing importance of appealing to the millennial generation as a part of your development strategy. However, something that gets less attention in the philanthropic landscape and in the media is the role of Generation X, those born in the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s.

As Gen X philanthropists come into their own—and we celebrate the 25th anniversary of their era-defining film “Reality Bites”—2019 is the perfect time to give this often-overlooked generation the attention it deserves.

We’ve outlined some thoughts on the matter below, but we also want to hear from you! Drop us a note in the comments section and let us know your impression of what’s working (or not working) as you think about reaching Gen X.

Did you know that Gen X represents over a quarter of the global population? The United States alone is home to 66 million Gen Xers, about 26.6% of the U.S. population, now in their mid-30s through early 50s. Philanthropically, Gen Xers account for about 19% of American donors and give more small and mid-level gifts than any other generation.[1]

GenX-Callout1As they continue to age and grow their wealth, understanding Gen X and their giving trends and preferences is of increasing importance. “It is so important for nonprofit leaders to consider Gen X as a critical audience in the philanthropic world,” stresses Campbell & Company Senior Consultant Elise Krikau.

“Boomers are an important piece of a more immediate giving strategy, and engaging millennials continues to be a popular discussion. However, long-term fundraising strategy should incorporate Gen X-specific strategy if organizations want to evolve with their changing donor base.”

During the late-2000s, several studies examined how different generations give to nonprofits. These studies included:

These reports brought numerous insights about Gen X’s giving preferences and values as they compare to other generations, but as Gen X is occupying more and more of the philanthropic landscape, research has taken a deeper dive into their unique giving characteristics.

In September 2016, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published a feature on “The Neglected Generation X,” and Viacom Global Insights began publishing articles on Gen X lifestyles and behaviors in a special online collection called “Gen X Today.” According to “The Neglected Generation X,” Gen Xers support about half the number of charities that older boomers do.

They do their research—often proactively searching for organizations to support, and paying particular attention to “impact, efficiency, and leadership.”[2] Seeing how well connected they are—and being the generation that created the likes of Google and Uber—it’s no surprise that they would prioritize data over emotion.

“Targeting Gen X donors means not only inspiring them to action, but truly persuading them that your organization makes a quantifiable impact and has strong leadership and vision,” says Campbell & Company Vice President Melissa Berliner.   

“They may not support as wide a range of philanthropic causes, but they are more deeply invested with the organizations they support, remain fiercely loyal to those causes, and they have a lot to say about how and where they want to engage. We just need to stop, listen, and consider strategies that align with their current life stage.”

Another interesting nuance about Gen Xers is that they would rather donate both money AND time to one or two organizations than only monetarily donating to several organizations.

GenX-Callout2In fact, more than 29% of Gen Xers donate their time, the highest rate of all generations.[3] Furthermore, in 2013, 46% of Gen Xers said they had raised money directly on behalf of a cause or charity in the past year—a higher percentage than both boomers and millennials.

For us, these findings beg the question: what are we doing to create meaningful volunteer opportunities for this group? Gen Xers are balancing growing home responsibilities and likely at a mission-critical moment in their career ladder climb. Nonprofits need to take that into consideration as they craft these opportunities.

All in all, Gen X is becoming increasingly relevant to any nonprofit’s philanthropic strategy. They are a significant portion of the population, they are amassing more and more wealth, and they are drawn to organizations they find both meaningful and operationally effective.  

Nonprofits should rethink their tried and true strategies that work for boomers when it comes to fundraising and volunteerism. Gen X is its own cohort with unique preferences and tendencies. Adjusting your strategy to meet the needs of rising generations can only help your organization adapt to the ever-changing philanthropic landscape.

But what do you think about it all? How do you think Gen X differs from other generations? How have you adjusted your approaches to reach this group in new and different ways? Please reach out to Melissa Berliner or Elise Krikau with any thoughts or ideas about how to improve our understanding of Gen X in philanthropy.

And in the meantime, enjoy this oldie but goodie on us:

 

[1] “The Neglected Generation X,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 6, 2016, https://www.philanthropy.com/specialreport/the-neglected-generation-x/108.

[2] “Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy” (a collaborative research project of 21/64 and the Dorothy A Johnson Center for Philanthropy published in July 2013).

[3] “The Neglected Generation X,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 6, 2016, https://www.philanthropy.com/specialreport/the-neglected-generation-x/108.

Nonprofit Trends, Fundraising, Fundraising Tips, Blog

Maddy Fisher

Maddy Fisher is a Marketing and Business Development Intern at Campbell & Company. Maddy works to improve our client experience, create thought leadership content, and streamline our firm processes.

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