As time moves steadily on, the generational demographics of the world are gradually shifting. Elders and Boomers are aging, and new generations are coming into their own. What does all of this mean for the future of generosity, in the hands of these next generations?
For the purpose of this post, we are using the age ranges defined by Barna in a study last year:
Elder – born before 1946
Boomer – born from 1946-1964
Gen X – born from 1965-1983
Millennial – born from 1984-1998
Gen Z – born from 1999-2015
We all know these generational age divisions manifest themselves in different approaches to many aspects of life. Generosity is no exception to that. But just because a grandchild approaches giving differently than their parents or grandparents does not mean their way is bad or worse. It is important, however, to seek to learn and understand what drives the up-and-coming generations and to talk to them about these matters. When we collaborate and empower generations to continue to walk in values, families thrive.
There are already significant changes in trends we should pay attention to in order to continue to engage generations well in generosity. In Barna’s study, several aspects of generosity were examined.
When comparing what compels people to give, there is a marked difference between the younger and older generations. While 50-52% of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X said true generosity is “always” driven by compassion, only 32% of Elders and 38% of Boomers said the same. More than twice as many Millennials as Boomers (20% to 8%) said that generosity should “always” be spur-of-the-moment.
Looking at financial giving rates, at first glance, it may be a dismal outlook towards the future as only 6% of Gen Z and 13% of Millennials reported giving monetary support frequently. However, when the whole picture is examined, we see reason for great optimism. Currently, Gen Z and Millennial study participants were most likely to give by acts of service and volunteerism, and they are significant advocates. Millennials and Gen Z are not all in life stages yet where significant giving dollars may be possible, but trends show their engagement in generosity is only continuing to progress, and some anticipate they could be one of the most generous generations.
In light of this research and the gradual transfer of wealth that is occurring from one generation to the next, how can we work together to solve world problems through generosity? The answer involves intentionally partnering well across the generational gap. Older generations should be supportive of the younger generations beginning their journey by teaching the lessons they have learned, rather than avoiding talking about money and finances.
At the same time, younger generations can intentionally grow their generosity by learning from those ahead of them. As they begin to see generosity as a whole-life strategy, it can balance both the desired spontaneity but also weave in intentional plans. As we have seen earlier, generosity is not all about financial gifts. A lifestyle of purposeful, intentional giving through time, talent, and treasure is what transformational generosity looks like.
To generations preparing to pass the baton, the lesson here is not to be discouraged thinking there is no one to carry on your legacy of generosity, but rather invest your time in those eager to learn. To the rising generations, do not be content with current practices, but go outside your comfort zone to practice generosity. Here is the opportunity for generations to come together and become champions. Being united together does not mean we will all do things the same, but it means we are engaging in our individual and collective ways to champion what matters. The values and causes stay the same, even if the approach might look different from one person to the next.
Let us celebrate our differences and continue to be willing to learn from one another as the baton is passed from one generation to the next.