Generation G: Teachings from a five year old philanthropist

Generation G: Teachings from a five year old philanthropist

While much is written and discussed about the giving behaviours of the baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (or Millennial), I want to focus on Generation G in this post.  Generation Generosity cuts across many age-groups and their generosity embraces more than charity. Here is an account of a recent encounter with a member of Gen G …

While on vacation in India, visiting friends and relatives, my five year old son Akshay received a good amount of cash as gift. So on the last day of our vacation, I asked him what he wanted to do with the money. I was already considering a particular mall I could take him, to help spend it.

The conversation that followed surprised me …

‘Is this a lot of money” he asked.  “Yes for a child that is a pretty big amount” I replied.

So does that make me rich?” he queried. “Oh yes indeed” I responded.

OK then let us give it to those who do not have money. Since I am rich, that’s what I want to do” he said.

As we had just a few hours before we travelled out, I took him to the closest charity and explained to him the work being done to help poor children. A receptionist then accepted his donation and provided him with a receipt, a brochure and a ‘thank-you pen’.

Later I asked Akshay how he felt about having helped. His reply made me stop in my tracks…

I don’t think I helped any poor child’ he said, ‘all we did was give the money to a woman at the counter for a pen!

Here are 3 teachings that I gathered from my son that day:

1. Gen G have a natural affinity to gratitude

Akshay could do whatever he wanted with ‘his’ money and he chose to help others. Many, who are part of this Asian century, have experiences that are very different from those of their parents. They are very aware of their privileged economic status and the income disparity that they see around them. Despite their access to material comforts and exposure to consumerism, many are very community-minded and are keen to make an impact in the lives of people on the other side of the economic divide.

2. The alignment of values matter more

Generation G does not see generosity as just sharing or giving away material, money and talent. They are genuinely compassionate and concerned. Hence they expect causes to show reciprocal compassion and concern, not just to the beneficiaries of their generosity (be it fellow humans, animals or the planet) but also to every stakeholder of the cause. The core values of a commercial company or a cause needs to be aligned with theirs and they demand that these entities demonstrate it through their daily practice. They are less motivated by brands and identifies more closely with ideals and values.

3. It is about the overall experience

Maya Angelou’s quote comes to mind. ‘People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.’

Gen G has a need to feel that they are a part of something and are making a difference. For them that experience is the essence of the cause.

Collaborating with Generation G

For communicating and engaging with this generation, non-profits leaders and fundraisers will have to understand that:

  • Gen G are generous. However, they want to experience the giving, see positive evidence of the impact created in the lives of others. Hence many rather be social investors, innovators or micro philanthropists, than mere donors. This is partly because the donor experience offered currently, does not adequately suit the Gen G motivations.  Presently most non-profit’s efforts at providing ‘donor care’ is focused on the motivations of another generation. (Gen G does not need a free pen or a free invitation to a show – they want to sense that no matter what their gift, they are helping to transform lives).
  • This is a savvy and sceptical segment, who have a sharp eye focused on the ethical practises of the non-profits as much as on the impact in the community. They don’t wear their association with a brand as a social badge nor are they anti-brand. What they are against is unethical behaviour by any brand.  (‘Branded- NGOs’ who have jumped feet first into the outsourced face to face fundraising arena in Asia– Be aware!).
  • The psychographics is more important than the mere demographic segmentation that non-profits have been used to and focused on until now. In Asia, many pockets in the society have leap-frogged from poverty to high net worth within a generation. Hence it is important to be cautious when using fundraising tools and references developed for environments where a linear growth from baby boomers to Gen X to Gen Y has been the reality.
  • Non-profits will have to develop multi-channel interactions and personalised experiences for the Gen G collaborators. While this may seem as a lot of work, it is important to realise that when a cause gains a Gen G collaborator, they don’t just gain a donor, but a champion and influencer. Gen G has the generosity to not just support, but also to mobilise like-minded Gen G members and beyond, to create a sustained impact in the community.

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