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It’s finally time for Gen X to shine

I have a confession to make: I am a proud member of Gen X.

I know I’m supposed to shrug and act like I don’t care about anyone or anything, but I’m happy to speak up on behalf of my generation. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Gen X is a bit more balanced and real than both the Baby Boomers who came before us and the Millennials who came after.

We know life doesn’t owe us anything (heck, half of our parents split up and left us to microwave our meals after school). And, while we might tend toward the cynical, at least we don’t suffer under any delusions about what the world owes us (it owes us exactly nothing). We’re also used to being overlooked, the classic middle child.

But a funny thing is happening demographically—and nonprofit organizations should pay close attention here.

While both the Boomers and Millennials are large in numbers, Gen X is relatively small. That means there is a bit of a labor shortage for people aged 40-55 right now.

As the Boomers retire and before the Millennials are ready to ascend, we reality-based, sarcasm-inclined, grungy Gen Xers suddenly have a lot of nice upper management job opportunities. And—because we avoided the Boomers’ conspicuous consumption habits—many of us have a few dollars in our pocket.

That extra spending money is relevant for NPOs.

Generation X is aware of the fact that life often sucks, and as such, our hearts and minds are open to helping those in need. Our own situation may have worked out OK, but we know that the world is full of problems and that we all could use a helping hand from time to time.

But connecting with my generation has proven to be a challenge for nonprofits. Gen Xers often have lower retention rates, so many NPOs simply give up on them.

In order to better understand what motivates Gen X, RKD Group has done some extensive research (click here to check it out). We surveyed the three primary adult generations—Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer—for insights into their giving behavior, attitudes and core values.

We found a lot of interesting things, but here are a few that speak to me:

First, we’re more skeptical than our bookend generations. So, go easy on the emotional stories. When I see a polar bear floating on a piece of ice, I’m more likely to feel manipulated than motivated. We question everything, so don’t lay it on so thick.

We know life can be difficult, you don’t need to tell us that. Be a little more factual. Tell us how we can make a difference. Reassure us that you’re going to use our money well.

If you can prove that you’re actually going to help someone in need, we’ll do our part.

While we didn’t grow up playing on iPads as toddlers, Gen Xers have been on the Internet for more than 20 years. We may not be wired into our phones like the next generation, but digitally engaging us is much more likely to work.

Life sucks, then you die. Reality bites. Maybe we were a bit too harsh in our Nirvana-driven angst. But, now that we’re hitting middle age, maybe our hard edge of cynicism is easing just a bit.

We know many people have it truly hard out there, and there are many amazing organizations working diligently to make the world more humane, just, and compassionate.

So, keep it real, conduct your nonprofit with high integrity, and for crying out loud don’t send us snail mail with a loopy picture on it!

You might be pleasantly surprised to find us Gen Xers very generous.

Dennis Moore

As President of RKD Group, Dennis Moore serves as a key leader in providing data-driven omnichannel fundraising solutions to nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining RKD, Dennis held positions with Numerator and The Nielsen Company. Dennis is a recognized authority on data and analytics, and he regularly speaks at industry trade events.

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