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September 12, 2016 – Focusing on Gen X Giving

Teresa HuizarGood morning and happy Monday.  I hope this finds everyone well.  This morning, I’d like to shift gears from research and focus for just a moment on fundraising.  Many of us dread fundraising, necessary though it may be.  And many of us feel that it detracts from the time we could be spending with clients, on programming, or simply doing anything other than fundraising.

But there’s no getting away from it, and a series of articles in the most recent edition of The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers new and useful insights into soliciting gifts from an often overlooked group of potential donors – Generation X.  Generation X occupies the narrow space between Baby Boomers and Millennials.  Born between 1965 and 1980, this group is “a more diverse crowd than the boomers, more independent and pragmatic, more tech-savvy and comfortable with data.”  “Why You Need Generation X,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 2016, p. 11. 

Traditionally, nonprofits have focused on Boomers and Millennials.  The focus on Boomers is for their wealth and philanthropy, since they are responsible for 40% of all giving in this country.  Id., p. 10.  Millennials are viewed as the up-and-comers.  At 75.4 million, they outnumber even the Boomers, and hold the promise of tomorrow.  But Generation X seems to get lost in the mix.  They are a smaller group than either the Baby Boomers or the Millennials, they are busy raising families (and often caring for aging parents as well) and therefore have less disposable income, and they tend to be skeptical and less responsive than Boomers to personal stories as opposed to data. 

But, according to the article’s author, they can be a tremendous source of support to nonprofits—if they are approached in the right way.  Fortunately for us, the author offers some useful tips for how to reach out to them.  To begin with, she notes that despite their supposed cynicism, Gen Xers volunteer more than either Boomers or Millennials, and more than 29% donate their time:  “[t]hey’re inclined to roll up their sleeves and help repair the world; they were the first to serve in AmeriCorps and Teach for America.”  Id., p. 11.  And while the donations of time and talent are gifts in and of themselves, Gen Xers tend to volunteer “first to figure out the lay of the land, to figure out where they’re going to put their giving.”  Id

Moreover, they are eager to give.  While they can’t necessarily give the kinds of major gifts that Boomers can, “they account for 19 percent of gifts of $100,000 or more….” Id.  And “[n]o generation is more likely to generate small and midlevel gifts:  nearly 86 percent of revenue from Gen X donors comes from gifts of under $10,000….”  Id

Because they are “[m]idlife donors who give more modestly, or are new to philanthropy,” id., nonprofits need to be sure to offer a range of giving options with multiple price points.  And nonprofits need to consider alternative forms of giving, such as “noncash gifts.  Donations of appreciated stock – shares owned for at least a year and a day that have increased in value – save the donor capital-gains taxes…. Yet a lot of charities don’t advertise that they accept such gifts or don’t have brokerage accounts to receive them.”  Id., p. 12. 

Another important option for Gen Xers is planned giving.  But most charities don’t begin the conversation with donors until the donors are in their 60s.  According to the author, that’s too late, and she urges nonprofits to begin the conversation much earlier.  The information is critical – not because a conversation with a development director about planned giving will immediately result in a bequest decision, but rather because we need to plant the seed so it is there long before the precipitating event that causes people to make bequest decisions ever occurs.  As the author points out, “it is not marketing and contact with development professionals that drive people to their estate planner….  Instead, life events—selling a company, for instance—precipitate bequest decisions.”  Id., p. 17. 

As you review or develop your fundraising plans, I urge you to make the time and take the effort to carve out a specific approach for potential Gen X donors.  Moreover, I urge you to download these articles in order to help you formulate such a plan.  Gen X donors have a lot to offer your organizations – and these articles can help you make the most of what they have to give. 

As always, I thank you for all your hard work and dedication and for all that you do on behalf of children and families.

Warm regards,  
Teresa

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