The New Face of Donors
The New Face of Donors
July 19, 2005
By Judith E. Nichols, CFRE
Increasingly, our donor and prospect bases will be dominated by individuals born after, rather than before, World War II. They are very different from the men and women who came of age during the Depression and lived through that war. The new face of donors includes Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and the first wave of Generation Net, and whether you are approaching them for annual or major gifts, it will behoove you to know a little more about them, their values and their perspectives.
Middle-aged baby boomers have very different psychographics than the older, civic-minded audiences that nonprofits have historically depended on. Our society's adult idealists (born between 1946 and 1964) have been hard for the world to swallow. Boomers were told they could do anything. For them, life is a voyage of self-discovery. They display a bent toward inner absorption, perfectionism and individual self-esteem. Taught from birth that they were special, boomers believe in changing the world, not changing to fit it. In midlife, they will see virtue in austerity and a well-ordered inner life. Also, they will demand a new assertion of community values over individual wants.
* Preferred Message Style: mediative and principled, with an undertone of pessimism.
* Financial Style: Having always lived in a world of inflation and having no memories of the Depression, they have a different understanding of money. This is the generation that saw money lose clout. More is worth less. Financial planning is viewed as a sign of status in its own right. However, they are coming out of the free-spending l980s to focus on non-materialistic values. They tend to buy first, pay later and like monthly payment plans and using credit cards.
* Key Life Events: the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy; worldwide rock music; the Red Brigade and other campus/youth-based terrorism.
The reactive young adults born between 1965 and 1977 are the first generation that doesn't believe life will be better for them than it was for their parents. Following the much-heralded boom, the media convinced us that busters could do nothing right. They were the throwaway children of divorce and poverty, the latchkey kids. Reactives were neither trusted nor appreciated as youth and carry the scars into adulthood. They are the most conservative-leaning youths of the 20th century. Generation Xers will need convincing proof that your organization is reliable and will simplify rather than complicate their lives.
* Preferred Message Style: blunt and kinetic, with an appeal to brash survivalism. They see their role in life pragmatically. They want to fix rather than change. They are highly influenced by technology and television.
* Financial Style: Generation X has a different view of the good life. They are more concerned with the acquisition of intangibles: a rich family or spiritual life, a rewarding job, the chance to help others, and the opportunity for leisure and travel or for intellectual and creative enrichment. Many are still being supported in adulthood by parents and have high discretionary income they will give to charities they work with. Highly computer literate, they prefer the cashless society.
* Key Life Events: the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and opening of Eastern Europe.
BABY BOOMLET (Generation Net or Y)
The civic-minded children of boomers, the first wave of Generation Net (born from 1977 through 1985) hold many of the values of their grandparents but with a global context, thanks in large part to technology. Generation Netters are growing up in a world without boundaries and are likely to extend their philanthropy well past their own countries.
Judith E. Nichols is a New York City-based consultant. Her newest book is "Pinpointing Affluence in the 21st Century," and she can be reached at 503.349.3212 or by e-mail at email@example.com.