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  • Kelsey Kuske

Tis' the Season of Generational Giving

During the holidays, we come together to give thanks and celebrate. Families come in different shapes and sizes, as do the holiday tables around which they gather. Each person comes with their own stories, experiences and identities – all of which form the lenses through which we experience the world.



One of the most impactful lenses is that of the particular “generation” of which we are a member. The collective experience of the generation we are a part of has formed each of us into the individual we are today. This generational identity is important to recognize because it greatly impacts how we view and interact with the world around us.


As we end 2019, we in development come around the proverbial family table of philanthropy to wrap up end-of-year appeals or gear up for a campaign that will begin in the new year. Just as generational differences are important to recognize around the family holiday table, we should recognize these same differences in the way generations give back, especially during the season of giving.


The commonality between all generations is our desire to support the causes we love. How we support these causes manifests itself differently among each generation.


The Traditionalist/Silent (b. 1900 – 1945)

- They were molded by the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War. This generation’s members value hard work, sacrifice and dedication.

- This generation finds a cause they are passionate about and becomes lifelong givers to the cause.

- They respond best to direct mail and are most likely to write a check.


Baby Boomers (b. 1946 – 1964)

- The Baby Boomer generation was molded by the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, Cold War and the promise of reaching “The American Dream.”

- As a result, they are often coined as the “me-generation” and live the lifestyle of “live to work.” They are optimistic, driven and have a desire to make a difference.

- Involving this generation in the ongoing work and mission of your organization is key to engaging them. Allow them to find self-fulfillment through work with your organization.


Generation X (b. 1965 – 1980)

- Gen-X was shaped by Watergate, the energy crisis, activism, dual-income families and single parents, and being the first generation of “Latchkey kids." Their perceptions are impacted by growing up taking care of themselves and watching their parents get laid off.

- This generation values a work-life balance, informality and flexibility. The members of this generation are entering positions of influence and power in their organizations.

- When addressing this generation, use humor, allow them to work independently and on their own terms for your organization and understand that their primary focus is their family.


Generation Y aka “Millennials” (b. 1981 – 1994)

- Millennials were heavily influenced by the rise in digital media, school shootings and terrorist attacks and high rates of divorce. They hope to reverse all the “wrong” they see in the world. - They value a collaborative and balanced work-life, diversity/global community, and achievement. They want to take action to drive positive change in their communities.

- When engaging this generation, you must act fast on their interest or you will lose them. They want to be hands-on and involved directly with the mission so provide options that allow them to participate.

Although there are many differences between the generations, one thing will always remain the same. Each wants to create positive change and give back. It is vital that we observe and address these differences so we can better steward and engage each generation, especially during the season of joy and giving!


Do you have a tip or trick when engaging a particular generation? Tell us in the comments!



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