Posts Tagged ‘Gen X’

Busting five myths about Next Gen donors

There are now four generations we need to authentically engage in the philanthropic world that affect everything from communication to leadership to recruitment and retention of donors. We need to look at fundraising from the next generation of donors’perspective because philanthropy’s pipeline is essential for our organizations’sustainability. The essential questions have become: 1) Whom do we tap for funds? and 2) How do we develop Next Gen leaders on our boards and staffs and in our volunteers?

As I travel around the country and talk about Fundraising and the Next Generation, I am consistently confronted with the following five myths about fundraising with the next generation of philanthropists. Tagging and dispelling these myths can help us develop relationships with the next generations that can only enhance our organizations.

Myth #1: Next Gen donors are hard to find.

Next Gen donors are in our organizational backyards. This is not a “Where’s Waldo?” situation where they are mystical and unobtainable. They are our volunteers, staffers and children of our donors. They are young people engaged in professional groups like Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Resource Generation and more.

Many young philanthropists begin engagement with nonprofits through volunteerism. In fact, according to various research, Millennials especially see philanthropy as a contribution of both time and money. The next generation wants hands-on experiences with organizations before giving dollars. Pay extra attention tothe volunteers.

Myth #2: The next generation is too young to make major donations or think about planned giving.

Our organizations’major donors and prospects were not always major donors, at least most of them.They needed time to build their wealth and philanthropy. It’s the same with Generation X and Millennials. We need to cultivate today’s annual donors to be tomorrow’s major donors.

I also know of Next Gen donors that do have the capacity for large gifts and do have wills with allocations for philanthropic contributions. The truth is we never really know where those millionaires are–they may be quiet or understated or they may stand to inherit wealth. It’s our job to develop relationships with individuals with wealth or access to wealth now to create sustainability for our organizations in the future. As I often say, donors are like snowflakes: each one is completely unique. Philanthropists express their contributions in different ways at different times.

Myth #3: Next gen donors’ philanthropy is the same as their parents’ and grandparents’.

Family philanthropy is complicated, whether we are talking about a family foundation, donor-advised fund or kitchen table philanthropy. Combining money, family dynamics and the generational lens makes giving especially delicate. One thing I know is that every generation–every individual–in philanthropic families wants to have its own impact. This impact may include a respect for the legacy of those who led the family’s philanthropy but will also need to encompass additional philanthropic values.

In resource development, we can reach out to the younger generations in family philanthropies to find out what inspires them and how to communicate effectively. Ask questions about how they would like to be engaged and what a successful,impactful philanthropic investment looks like.

We are not carbon copies of our parents and grandparents; neither is our philanthropy.

Myth #4: Next Gen donors don’t have the time, talent or treasure to serve as board members.

Experiences with groups like Young Nonprofit Professionals Network demonstrate there are young people who are anxious to serve in leadership roles. Our job is to make sureany board member, regardless of age, has the tools to serve successfully in those roles. Provide training on fundraising and help individuals set fundraising goals to serve the mission.

A positive leadership experience for emerging leaders transforms them into ambassadors for your mission. We need to avoid tokenizing young people on our boards so we can check a box. Instead, make sure you’ve created a welcoming and engaging culture on your board that makes it possible to both recruit and retain Next Gen board members and donors. Young board members will provide fresh perspectives and diversity on your board, just like any other demographic.

Next Gen philanthropists are interested in giving time, treasure, talent, and ties, as the Next Gen Donors Report highlights. The next generation is well connected and will use those networks to tie the organization to meaningful partnerships whenever possible.

Myth #5: Young donors only use electronic communications.

Today the key to fundraising with any demographic group or individual donor is multichannel communications. Yes, Generation X and Y are technologically savvy and Millennials are considered digital natives, but online interactions will never replace in-person relationships. Don’t assume the only way to communicate with younger donors is by Facebook or Twitter.

We can use online technologies like social media as one of the tools in our toolbox, creating anentry point to develop deeper relationships. Social media is an outstanding way to steward relationships with existing donors by sharing our organization’s stories and successes and adding value by connecting followers to additional resources.

The truth is that fundraisers have had to evolve their communications strategies as new technologies emerge. We have had to learn how to effectively use direct mail, public service announcements and websites. We now need to add social media to that toolbox and know there will be more tools to come. In fact, it was recently reported thatthe fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women ages 55–65. What does this tell us about our assumptions related to social media and age?

While technology is agreat asset we can use to develop our donor relationships and create newprospects, it will never replace the personal connections that a phone call ora face-to-face meeting offers. Next generation philanthropists are no different than other generations; there are just additional ways to communicate with them.

We know from the research by Convio on the Next Generation of American Giving that lifelong loyalty to any nonprofit organization begins in the thirties, regardless of the generation, so perhaps giving is about life stage rather than age. We need to always check any assumptions we hold in order to explore what individual donors of all ages and giving abilities can contribute to our organization.

You can read more about next generation donors in Fundraisingand the Next Generation and the Next Gen Donors Report.

See also:

Our Page to Practice summary of Fundraising and the Next Generation

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia–Multigenerational Management Ideas that are Changing the Way We Run Things

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership

Creating Change through Family Philanthropy: The Next Generation

Leave a reply

Millennials give more through circles, tiers and partners

According to Fundraising and the Next Generation author, Emily Davis, nonprofits should be cultivating Millennials and Gen X because of their sheer size and long-term potential for philanthropy.

Wealthy Gen X donors give more and are increasingly more aware of charitable causes than earlier generations when they were the same age. Also worth noting, these two generations are more educated than prior generations, and there is a direct correlation between education and level of philanthropy.

A study at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reports a college degree increases annual giving by an average of $1,900. Additionally, younger donors tend to be driven more by the cause than by the notion of philanthropy itself.

Circles: Giving circles are a strategy Davis mentions to cultivate the next generation of donors. Giving circles are comprised of people who pool their donations and decide collaboratively how to impact an agreed-upon social cause. By leveraging your volunteer or board development strategies with fundraising know-how, Davis claims you can create giving circles within your own organization.

Tiers: Another strategy Davis mentions in her book is creating donor tiers that are sensitive to each age group’s ability to give. For example, Women Give San Diego uses this strategy for its annual giving campaigns. Members under the age of 40 are asked to give a minimum gift of $250 versus the Founding Members who are asked to give between $1,000 and $10,000 per year.

Partners: Yet another strategy for engaging and cultivating younger donors is partnering with a young professionals group (like or organization that naturally draws a younger demographic.

What are you doing to engage the next generation of philanthropists? Asking the Gen X and Y staff members in your organization is a great place to start.

CausePlanet subscribers: Don’t forget to register for our interview with Davis on Thurs, June 14 at Noon MST.

See also:
Fundraising and the Next Generation
Liquid Leadership

Leave a reply

Multigenerational management: Mind the gap

I think that’s why I found our recent CausePlanet book feature especially compelling: Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia – Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things. Managers today have to diversify their leadership approach more than ever to motivate Boomers, engage Gen Y and not forget Gen X in the middle.


Author Brad Szollose says, “Today’s generation gap is permanent and unlike any gap we’ve seen before; it is a chasm. We cannot return to the past any more easily than Dorothy Gale could go back to her black-and-white world unchanged. But we can bridge the gap and make it work under a new paradigm, starting with an understanding of how each of us approaches work. The integration of Boomers and “Netizens” is paramount to our success.”


To stay relevant as a leader in today’s workplace will require a willingness to constantly embrace what’s new outside of your organization and especially, inside among your team members. You might ask how this leadership perspective would be different than any other decade. The answer lies in Szollose’s first of seven laws that “puts people first.” To do so today means understanding how to nurture a productive continuum between enormously different working styles among the Gen Y and the Boomers.


Ultimately, Szollose impresses upon us that the most nimble leaders are the most successful because they realize the business model we’ve depended upon for the last hundred years is dead. Now, there are no rules for your business model. Instead you must stay open to new ideas, new technologies and even hybrids from the past, present and future to keep your organization relevant. You must create an environment where you can look to the smart people you’ve surrounded yourself with and learn from them, as well as pay attention to your marketplace and how opportunities arise.


The following is a Page to Practice excerpt of Szollose’s first of seven laws for managing a multi-generational team.


1st Law – A Liquid Leader Places People First

Szollose believes that flexible leaders begin by putting their people first and in doing so, recognize they are a composite of enormously different experiences and should be led accordingly. The author says that Boomers need to rely on Gen Y because most of the technological practices in use today did not exist five years ago. Instead of resisting the “citizens of the internet (or “Netizens”),” it’s critical to recognize this generation as talent-rich contributors because of their ability to consume astounding amounts of information from being raised on the Internet, resulting in an aptitude for technology. Conversely, Gen Y needs to trust Boomers who rely on strategy and are able to see the bigger picture. They have an eye for spotting talent and identifying potential pitfalls thanks to more experience.


Szollose also recommends putting your people first by setting clear standards of performance for them within a setting of a flat hierarchy, which contributes to a nimble organization and gets everyone involved and aligned to the entire organization’s success. Additionally, this structure allows for direct communication with the front lines so you can eliminate perceived and real barriers that prevent your staff from succeeding. Szollose says that “when the distance between upper management and the rest of the company was the greatest, management took longer to discover internal and external problems.”


Putting people first is also accomplished by redefining your role as a leader. In the author’s words, “For leadership to work these days requires leaders to be more approachable, more flexible, and stronger decision makers who show respect for every member’s contribution to the organization.” Szollose says that organizations that have strict boundaries and hierarchies create a scenario where the leaders are the last to know when things go wrong. Equally important is that this scenario diminishes innovation and ideas are never brought forward, encouraging staff members to hoard information and create silos and redundancy. In other words, this way of business is a waste of money. Instead, close the gap between management and implementers, redistribute decision making and establish an open-door policy.


And finally, putting people first means recognizing that your talent-rich team is progressively becoming more transient. They have laptops and they’re willing to travel. Boomers and Gen Y alike are no longer bound by their location to be creative or productive on behalf of an organization. “Transient” also applies to the status of your staff—you can hire contractors who meet your specific needs for important tasks. Implementers can come and go depending on the timing or seasonality of your projects and programs.


If you were going to add to one of Brad’s immutable laws for being a flexible leader of a multigenerational team, what would it be? Email us at


For more information about Brad Szollose and his book, you can visit his blog at If anyone is interested in a free special report, “Cracking the Gen Y Code: How They Think, How They Work and How They Buy,” email Brad at Include your name, email address and that you heard about his book from CausePlanet.

Leave a reply

Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
Forget your password?
Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.