by Chris Carter and Kyla Winchester

What’s the story, morning glory? And what’s the deal with generational difference? They might say it smells like Teen Spirit, or they might say, you better work! Life is a like a box of chocolates, but personally, I prefer a Royale with Cheese. Either way, I’m stuck in the middle with you.

Okay, quick test—if you recognized the references in the above paragraph, chances are you’re in Gen X, or born roughly from 1965 to 1980, depending on which source you consult. (For those born before or after, there are references to an Oasis song, a common Seinfeld joke, a Nirvana song, a RuPaul song, a line from Forest Gump, a line from Pulp Fiction, and a song from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.)

A brief refresher on generations:

  • The Silent Generation: born between 1928 and 1945
  • Baby Boomers: born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation X (or Gen X): born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials: born 1981 to 1996
  • Generation Z (or Gen Z): born mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s

If you’re one of those people who fall into Gen X, you might feel a little neglected: demographers talk a lot about Boomers and a lot about Millennials. Moreover, webinars and fundraising conferences sessions include a lot about Boomers and Millennials. But what’s missing from this demographic discussion? Yes, Generation X.

Why this gap?

It’s difficult to understand why Boomers and Millennials have come to such prominence while Gen X is often neglected. Each generation has slight difference that can be emphasized or downplayed depending on who you’re appealing to.

For Gen X, core features as a whole are family, stability, DIY approach, nostalgia and fitness. They are generally more tech-savvy than Boomers but use it differently than Millennials, typically in a more multi-channel way—for example, they stream online but also watch TV;  and open their email but also check their mail on a daily basis. They also have a high rate of giving (68%) that is almost as high as Boomers and Civics (72% and 73%), and significantly higher than Millennials (55%).  Finally, Gen X are also loyal to brands, with 3 out of 5 saying that once they like a brand they’ll stick with it

Much has been said about Millennials still dealing with the financial effects of the 2008 economic crisis early in their professional lives, and rightly so; and now COVID-19 will have lasting effects as well. The flipside of this is that Gen X has had comparatively more stability in the finances and may have more capacity to give.

People who are in Gen X today are in their peak giving years, earning an average household income of $102,000, similar to Baby Boomers ($98,000). As well, because Gen Xers are now in their 40s and 50s, they’ve been through significant world events and crises before—they’ll be able to take a long view and know that while things will be rough in the short-term, they’re less likely to panic about the short term and cut their giving.

How can you appeal to Gen X?

Email—or send multiple emails. Gen Xers are using email for work and family, so they’re checking their inboxes.

Mail–86% of Gen Xers check their mail every day. With many charities pulling back on direct mail, your organization can be the only ask in their inbox—an invaluable opportunity.

Video—75% of Gen Xers streams or downloads video at least once a month.

Appeal to their values—try content with nostalgia, like an 80s or 90s reference. Or offer tips to make their lives easier which are also relevant to your mission, e.g. stretches you can do at your desk, or a DIY bird feeder.

In essence, an integrated, multi-channel approach is key for Gen X.

As they say in 2018 Next Generation of Canadian Giving, “in the foreseeable future, your organization’s financial well-being lies primarily with Boomers and Gen-Xers.” If we’re not already thinking about long-term donor acquisition/retention and lifetime value, Gen X is a good place to start. So next time you’re reviewing your upcoming campaign, or working on your fundraising plan, or considering what channels to use and what to ask, consider generational differences in your strategy, and don’t neglect Gen X.