Members of Generation X rarely, if ever, do anything because they are supposed to, and this rings true in their philanthropic practices, as well. Tagged early as the “latchkey kids” coming home from school to an empty house because their parents, or only parent, were working, this generation (born 1963-1980) has a fierce independent streak. A key value of this generation is autonomy. Gen Xers want to engage in philanthropy for reasons—and in ways—that are their own.

Gen Xers, even more so than previous generations, want to know their philanthropy is making a difference. Known for their somewhat rebellious and skeptical nature, Gen Xers want to know the details: they want to see where and how the money is going to be spent and the impact it is going to have.

Building Trust

Seeing the plan for how the organization plans to spend the money can build a Gen Xer’s trust with both the leaders of the organization and the development professional with whom he or she is working. Gen X wants transparency and authenticity, so revealing the details of the project is a must if you seek to solidify a lasting relationship.

Showing impact is important on multiple levels. First, we want to give Gen-X donors the incredible feeling of seeing the difference they are making in an area they care deeply about. While this concept is common among all generations, Gen X differs in the level of details and results they want to see. Further, Gen X was raised during a time when trust faltered with many sectors of society. Amid scandals, massive recession and layoffs, and the divorce rate tripling, Gen X developed a concern for people doing what they say they are going to do.

When working with Gen-X donors, consider:

  • How can you show the impact their dollars will have in detail?
  • How can you demonstrate credibility that the organization is capable of accomplishing the vision?

Thinking Outside the Box

Raised during the tech boom of the 1980s and 1990s, Gen Xers often prefer to apply the phrase they coined in the workplace to their philanthropy: think outside the box. Don’t be surprised if their passions take them places outside the obvious linkages. Gen Xers are likely to want to make a difference with not only their money, but with their time, as well.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that Gen X is not known for being respectful of titles, but is very relationship driven. For this generation, relationships are built with people, not with positions. This is an important concept to consider when their philanthropy may likely have components of both volunteerism and contributions.

As Generation X increasingly contributes a larger piece of the philanthropic pie, understanding what motivates these donors and how they want to be engaged is critical to building strong foundational relationships that will last into their later years.

Whatever donor development strategy you choose to use with Gen-X donors, make sure that you remember the platinum rule:

Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.

As you think about ways to engage your current Gen-X donors and future potential donors, what are you doing to make that experience as meaningful as possible? Share your success stories on social media.

Generation X was born 1963–1980; Other generations include the Silent Generation (1925–1945), baby boomers (1946–1962), and millennials (1981–2002). (from Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit by Peter C. Brinckerhoff)