October 8, 2013

Generational Characteristics of Giving: What to do?

Have you ever attended a really informational event and then came away saying, “That was great and now what?!” This recently happened to me. I was listening to a person speak eloquently about a topic. He ended with great fanfare. I had tears in my eyes when… I realized that he gave me absolutely no strategies for applying the information. 

Today I want to talk about the folks in your pews. We all have different needs. Pew Research as well as a few other noteworthy researchers has spent some time looking at what are the characteristics of each generation. Rather then simply talk about each generation, I thought it might be helpful to give some concrete ideas as to strategies to engaging each demographic in your annual giving efforts. 

This information was presented in the “Stewardship in a New Millennium” Webinar on Tuesday, September 10, 2013. If you missed it, you can watch a recording of it here.

The Great Generation is defined by the Great Depression, WWll, and patriotism, loyal to the church, frugality, and trust in government and authority. They married early and set up today’s Church. 

  • Message: Legacy (you built this and will be remembered) and obedience to God
  • Strategy: A visit from an authority figure making a personal invitation.

The Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964. Their generation is defined by idealism and the freedom of 1960s and 70s, first divorce generation, reject establishment and routines, question authority, self is more important than the group.

These folks need information on not just how a gift will be used, but its proposed impact. Transparency is needed in light of suspicion of institutions.

  • Message: Prioritization of charitable giving. (You give to a lot of different worthwhile places. Please make our parish family your top priority.)
  • Strategies: Narrative Budget, impactful story telling—have actual recipients of giving speak to gift.
Generations X’ers were born between 1965 and 1978. This generation is defined by individualism, seeker generation, and single parent households. The may be coupled/married later, educated, technology savvy, entrepreneurial, cynical of authority. 

Generation X will change occupations and move 5+ times. They wish to “experience” church, although they may not be able to attend regularly. Experience, virtual or otherwise, is tied directly to giving.

  • Message: We are people/community who care about one another. Put individuals in front of ministries. Example, “Jennie has been leading our __ministry for __years and can speak to its impact.”
  • Strategies: Year round thanking. Don`t just focus on the fall. For a people who resist authority, being asked to give in the fall often chafes. Foster relationships with potential givers to leaders in ministries.

Millennials were born between 1979/80- 2000. They are defined by being children of divorce, celebrate diversity, socially conscious, well educated, parents are advocates and friends, technology is a given, debt is a given.

Pew research is claiming characteristics are similar to Greatest Generation: civic minded and service oriented. Have grown up with helicopter parents: require mentorship/relationships to affirm their decisions/giving.

  • Message: Your gift is important and will impact lives. Now, how can we get to know you?
  • Strategies: Immediate gratification of giving, online community presence, and online stories of impact.

These are general characteristics and strategies for rethinking how to form new givers in your parish. What would it look like if you employed one or more of these strategies? Are there other ways you`ve connected to different generations in your community?