“It’s not at all surprising that Generation X gives less than other generations, because they are younger, they have families to raise, and they have less income and wealth,” Steinberg says. “It was surprising, though, that there was such a big gap after we removed the effects of differences in income and wealth.”
But while Generation X has yet to reach its full earning and giving potential, J. Walker Smith, Ph.D., president of Yankelovich Partners, a marketing-services consultancy specializing in lifestyle trends and customer-targeting solutions, says Gen-Xers have a desire to get engaged in a more meaningful, authentic and committed way.
“Generation X is at a life stage right now where it may be very difficult for them to be involved financially,” Smith says. “But the fears and concerns that a lot of [marketers] had initially about Gen-Xers being harder to retain and grow in a relationship have not been borne out yet.”
Their behaviors suggest a need for direct involvement, as well as a personal connection, with a nonprofit organization, Smith says. They also want to be more in control of their marketing and media experiences — when and how they give. And, most importantly, they will show loyalty to organizations that measure up to their standards of integrity and authenticity.
“[Direct-response] fundraisers need to find ways in which all media can be brought together — the new and the old,” Smith says. “This is a multitasking generation accustomed to myriad mediums. Communicating with them in that style certainly would resonate more strongly.”
The Internet effect
While many nonprofit organizations discount Generation X as being too young, skeptical and individualistic to make a real impact on fundraising, others see it as an opportunity to build relationships.
Take Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion-rights group based in Washington, D.C. In 2003, the organization launched a Generation Pro-Choice section on its Web site to recruit young women as activists and donors by educating them about reproductive issues. Readers who sign up online receive an electronic newsletter with news, columns and opportunities to network.