Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, Oh My! Fundraising Campaign Tips for All

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | November 2022

Many generations of people sitting on a wall.

When fundraising, it's essential to know your audience. One of the key demographic factors when it comes to donations has to do with generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z have characteristics you need to consider. In this post, we'll be looking at fundraising tips for reaching different generations. 

Generations and Donations

Every generation consists of millions of people, so there are significant differences. There are also generations on the cusp, such as younger Boomers and older Millennials. Keeping these qualifications in mind, there are certain patterns displayed by each generation. Let's look at the four generations that make up the majority of donations. The statistics about the size of US generations are from Statista. Information on donation preferences is from the QGiv Generational Giving Report

Baby Boomers

There are about 70 million Baby Boomers in the United States, born between 1946-1964. Boomers are important because they are many and the most affluent of the generations. In fact, Boomers contribute 43% of all donations, with over 50 million giving an average $1200.  
 
Boomers grew up in the pre-digital era. While many are tech-savvy, others prefer to interact via direct mail. They may prefer to send physical checks rather than sending digital payments. If you want to appeal to Boomers, an all-digital fundraising strategy is not the way to go. 
 
Boomers are most comfortable with giving to established and well-respected organizations. This doesn't mean they won't support newer causes. But, you'll have to convince them that the organization is honest and worthwhile. To reassure them, provide hard information and statistics about what you're doing. Boomers are most likely to donate to human and health services and religious causes.

Generation X

Made up of about 65 million Americans, Generation Xers were born between 1965-1980. Some demographers, such as McKinsey, categorize them as 1960-1979. Generation X grew up during the transition from analog to digital culture. Older Gen Xers can remember the days before the internet. Younger ones may have been online in their teens. As with Boomers, some Xers still respond to direct mail and personal phone calls. Yet they are also quite active on social media. 
 
Generation X is known for its skepticism. They are keen on reading reviews and consulting with people they know. Word of mouth is very important for this group. HubSpot found that Gen Xers have a long memory when it comes to bad experiences. They are also interested in the tax deductibility of donations.

Millennials

Millennials are the largest generation, with around 72 million Americans born between 1981-1996. The Millennials are the first generation that grew up using the internet. Most Millennials also began using mobile phones early in their lives. They are less likely to respond to direct mail and are best reached online or by phone. They are also heavy texters, which can be useful for setting up donations. Apps make it easy for donors to send money via text. Millennials are comfortable using PayPal and Apple Pay, so it's important to offer online payment
 
Because Millennials spend so much time on social media, it's essential to run campaigns on social platforms. Younger users are also fond of TikTok and Snapchat, which can be useful for sharing about your fundraising effort.

Generation Z

Following Millennials is Generation Z, born between 1997-2012. This is the smallest generation, making up only about 10% of the population. Gen Z is the first digital generation, having grown up with smartphones and the internet. Younger members of this group haven't yet reached the age where they are earning money. But, they are an idealistic generation, and many start making donations in their teens. Those born closer to 2000 are already graduating college and starting their careers. In the coming years, they will make up a larger percentage of donators. 
 
As a digital generation, the best way to reach Gen Z is through social media and phones. They want to know that their contributions make a difference, so it's important to provide evidence.

Other Generations

Of course, there are people who don't belong to the above generations. There are still members of the Silent and Greatest Generations, which precede Boomers. Many of the characteristics that apply to Boomers are also relevant to them. But, these people may not be comfortable with digital and are likely to prefer direct mail or phone calls. Many still use landlines.
 
At the other end of the spectrum is Generation Alpha, those after Generation Z. It will be a few years before this generation is old enough to donate.

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Fundraising Tips For Reaching Multiple Generations

Most organizations want to reach a large audience, which likely includes many generations. Even organizations that benefit specific demographics can benefit from donations across the spectrum.
  • Connect in as many ways as possible. Contacting users via website, social media, phone, and direct mail will meet the preferences of all generations.
  • Create segmented campaigns. When appropriate, target certain groups for certain issues, events, or fundraising drives. Keep in mind the best way to reach your intended audience. For example, direct mail isn't the best choice for Generation Z.
  • Follow practices that work with all generations. Present solid arguments, backed by data and evidence, for your claims.
  • Keep web accessibility in mind. Web accessibility refers to practices that make a website usable for people with disabilities. While this can affect people of any age, it disproportionately affects older users. Avoid using very small fonts, which are harder to read. Not all users can use a mouse, so make the features keyboard accessible. Use alt text for those who have trouble viewing images. These and other measures will ensure that everyone can navigate your website.

Find Out What Works For You

These tips can help you communicate with members of different generations. At the same time, you also need to look at your own particular audience and how it responds to you. While it's important to study generational preferences, what matters are your results. Each organization is unique and there are differences within each generation. Test different platforms and ways of reaching out to find the best strategy. 

If you need help planning or executing your fundraising campaign, contact us today. 

Topics: Digital Marketing

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