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What Gen X’s giving behavior reveals about channel integration

Classically known as the “forgotten middle children,” Generation X has been overshadowed by their Baby Boomer and Millennial siblings for decades.

Boomers, known for their traditional preferences, are largely targeted for direct mail and major gifts from nonprofits. Millennials, known for their social media skills, have paved the way for digital adoption.

But what about Gen Xers?

Stuck somewhere in the middle, their behaviors, outlook on life and channel preferences have been a little harder for nonprofits to pin down.

And as they age into prime giving years, it’s more important than ever for organizations to understand how – and where – to reach them.

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading our latest study, “Don’t You Forget About Me: The Nonprofit Marketer’s Guide to Generation X,” for a comprehensive look at this next cohort of givers.

But in the meantime, I wanted to call out one element of the study. When it comes to fundraising, Gen Xers have shown a wide range of channel preferences and attitudes toward giving.

This key factor alone will have huge implications on the methods nonprofits will need to use to reach Gen X.

First, a little background

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things that make Gen X, Gen X.

Born between the years of 1965 and 1983, Gen Xers’ outlook on life was greatly shaped by two things.

First was the shift of the traditional family model. Often left to their own devices after school, Gen Xers grew up independent and able to fend for themselves – a detail that impacts their attitude toward life each and every day.

Second, the rise of technology caused a distinctive split between “Older” and “Younger” Gen Xers. While Older Gen X reached adulthood in a mostly analog world, Younger Gen Xers had home computers and the iconic screech of dial-up internet that we all know and love.

You can read more about the split between Older and Younger Gen X here, but this piece of information is key when we take a look at their giving habits and attitudes.

A diverse set of channel tendencies and attitudes

One of the most fascinating things about Generation X is the diversity in the ways they approach giving.

As you can see in the chart below, Older Gen Xers prefer direct mail and telemarketing. Younger Gen Xers are much more likely to respond to an appeal they first saw online. This reflects the evolution of technology in their formative years.

In addition to the wide range of channels that Generation X as a whole responds to, their attitudes toward life and giving range as well.

  • When asked about their feelings on embracing change, 60% of Younger Gen Xers responded positively to it, compared to only 39% of Older Gen Xers
  • Older Gen Xers indicated more interest in the traditional donation model of making a financial contribution and receiving impact reports
  • Younger Gen Xers showed a much stronger affinity for helping to increase the clout of the organization itself

How do you cater to this wide range?

There’s a broad variety of opinions and preferences when it comes to Generation X. What does this mean as you plan your strategies? I think it can be summarized in three main points:

1. A multichannel strategy is essential

When you’re trying to reach a generation whose channel preferences range from email to telemarketing to direct mail, you can’t limit yourself to any one channel. Using a multichannel strategy is essential in making sure all Gen Xers are being reached and feeling heard.

2. Integrated messaging throughout

In addition, an integrated message across all channels is key. Gen X has shown us that they’re consuming information in multiple forms. An integrated message will help provide brand consistency and strengthen the overall donor experience.

3. Testing will help you determine a happy medium

As always, testing is key. With varying preferences and attitudes toward giving, it’s important to get a testing strategy in place for your organization. When talking to an audience this broad, testing in all channels with varying language will help you find the sweet spot for your donors. Maybe you have an older audience who is very technology-savvy, or a younger audience who loves receiving mail. You’ll never know until you run a test to find out.

The bottom line: Although Generation X may prefer to fly under the radar, they’re poised to make a big splash in the fundraising world over the next several years. For nonprofits looking to take advantage of this rise, finding the right mix of channels and language will be essential for acquisition and retention.

 

Amanda Wasson

Amanda Wasson is Executive Vice President, Strategy and Innovation, at RKD Group. Her multidecade career began in offline fundraising, but soon she began applying her vision and entrepreneurial drive to launch RKD’s digital services in 2004.

Amanda is exceptional at navigating the alignment of channels, from mail to phone to connected device, to ensure that nonprofits execute a balanced omnichannel strategy. She and the RKD Digital team have a remarkable record of success helping organizations increase media reach, multiply fundraising and marketing revenue and grow digital and multichannel donors.

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