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Generation gap

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By Todd Cohen

Charities may be akin to “flashing 12’s.” That’s a term young people use to describe technologically-challenged Baby Boomers who cannot work a VCR, which flashes 12:00 o’clock when not programmed correctly.

Just as Boomers can struggle with technology, charities can be clueless about generational differences, ranging from subtle to obvious, among potential donors and volunteers.

Better recognizing and addressing those differences will be critical to charities in an increasingly competitive and fragmented marketplace.

That message was delivered this month by consulting firm BridgeWorks to more than 300 nonprofit leaders at the launch of the new Center for Nonprofits by the Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte.

According to Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, the firm’s principals and authors of “When Generations Collide,” charities must better understand the distinct characteristics of four generations of Americans and the forces that shaped them.

Those generations include 75 million “traditionalists” born before 1946, 80 million Boomers born from 1946 through 1964, 46 million “Generation Xers” born from 1965 through 1981, and 76 million “Millenials” born from 1982 through 2000.

To tap all those generations as donors and volunteers, charities need to know who they are, what they want and how to engage them.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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