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Food bank generational giving analysis reveals insights on Gen X

Our recent study, The Nonprofit Marketer’s Guide to Gen X, illustrates that Generation X is primed to become the next cohort of great givers. As the Silent Generation shrinks and Baby Boomers begin to leave the workforce, Generation X is aging into their prime giving years, and it’s up to nonprofits to make sure they’re reaching them.

All this Gen X hype got me thinking – what did Gen Xers do for food banks during the pandemic?

It’s no secret that donors as a whole rolled out in record-breaking ways to support food banks, but I wanted to break down this past year of giving by generation to get a better sense of who exactly those donors were.

So, we looked at data from almost 1 million donors who were active in the past 24 months from 69 of our food bank partners.

What we uncovered led to some pretty interesting insights.

Food bank donor files got younger

In 2020, the file make-up changed for food banks. As the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers continue to age, Generation X and even Millennials stepped up to the plate, taking up a bigger piece of the pie.

We know the size of the 2020 pie is much bigger than the 2019 one, but it’s important to note where the generational shifts happened. As we can see from the charts above, there was a 22% increase in active Gen X donors and a 40% increase in Millennial donors from 2019 to 2020.

And when we look at new donors acquired during 2020, we see a similar shift in age. While new Gen X donors grew by 9%, the Silent Generation decreased and Millennials and Baby Boomers stayed relatively flat.

They’re here and they have money

For years, nonprofits have thought that while acquiring younger donors is great, the money still lies with Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.

But when we actually look at average gift size by generation over the last three years, we see that narrative isn’t exactly accurate.

As the chart below shows, Gen X – and even Millennial – donors had higher gifts on average than the older crowd. And not just in 2020. Gen Xers have consistently had the highest average gift of the four generations since 2018.

Unfortunately, they’re not retaining

However, when we examine the active donors by lifecycle, we see that, on the whole, Gen X donors still aren’t the core donors for food banks.

A core donor is someone who gives to the organization for two or more consecutive years.

And when we take a look at COVID-acquired donors who made two or more gifts, we see that Generation X falls short of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.

What this tells us

Generation X is here. And while food banks are doing a great job of acquiring or reactivating Gen X donors, there seems to be gap when it comes to retention. Why is this?

As we know from our Gen X study, on average, this generation supports 6-8 causes a year. And when we looked at the reasons they stopped giving to an organization, the responses varied. But two important causes to note were:

  • The organization lost sight of their mission.
  • There were too few attempts to report results.

With this information in our pockets, the next step is to examine our retention strategies. How can you adapt messaging and tactics so that Gen X donors stay on your file for years to come?

First, start by reading our study, The Nonprofit Marketer's Guide to Gen X, to get to know what makes them unique. We dive deep into their behaviors and the attitudes and values that drive those behaviors.

Next – stay tuned. Our food bank team is working diligently to uncover the best messaging, retention and segmentation strategies for this next great generation of givers.

Lynn Howes

Lynn has been serving as a fundraiser, marketer and strategist for local, national and international nonprofit organizations for more than two decades. Using her experience, Lynn helps nonprofits uncover the wealth in their data and make empowered decisions that lead to growth.

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