Every generation gives differently. They give to different kinds of charities, different total sums of money, and towards different causes. So it’s important that non-profit organizations analyze the donor habits of Boomers, Gen Y, Gen X, and Civics in order to properly target and maximize donations of the current and future donor base.

Blackbaud, a research company geared towards analyzing issues in the public sector, conducted a study in 2010 to unpack some of the specificities of donating, broken down by generations.

Acquiring Donors by Generation


  • CIVICS (born before 1945)
  • BABY BOOMERS (est. 1945 – 1964)
  • GEN X (est. 1965 – 1980)
  • GEN Y (1980+)

According to Blackbaud, Civics, the generation that once upon a time dominated the giving landscape, is declining in the overall philanthropic influence and are steadily being overtaken by Gen X. At the time of the study, the Gen X population was giving less than Civics, but given Gen X will have more disposable income in the near future and has many years left to give, there is a good argument for non-profits to position their marketing towards Gen X.

The great debate for charities today is whether Civics or Gen X is the more valuable generation of donors. Today it’s easier and cheaper to acquire a Civic donor, as that generation is more likely to give (and give more generously when asked). Yet, the public sector should consider that Gen X will be donating for many more years to come, and will presumably have an increased disposable income in the future. Though this debate is pervasive in the public sector, it’s not only about which generation to target, but also choosing short-term or long-term goals as a charity’s priority.

Ultimately, non-profit organizations need to find a balance between acquiring Gen X and Civic as donors as a means to successfully achieve both short-term and long-term priorities.

Older and Younger Generational Giving

The majority of today’s donors across all four generations say they’re not planning to add another charity to donate to in the near future or increase their overall giving. On the other hand, younger donors are more likely to increase their giving in the coming year. Blackbaud reports, “22 percent of Gen Y and 13 percent of Gen X say they will give more, compared with 6 percent of Boomers and 10 percent of Civics.”

The goal for non-profit organizations today should be to maximize donations from Boomers, Gen X, and Civics and begin to build an extensive welcome mat for Generation Y.

Preferred Causes by Generation

The study found that Gen Y is more likely to support international development or human rights based charities than any other generation, while Gen X donors are most geared towards children’s charities, and Civics are three times more likely to support an arts based non-profit than Gen Y.

The older generations, Civics and Baby Boomers, are more closely affiliated with health organizations. Seventy-three percent of Civics and seventy-five percent of Baby Boomers have made a donation to a health-related organization in the last year.

There’s no obvious generational pattern for environmental charities, Blackbaud reports, since Civics and Gen X are more likely to donate to environmental initiatives than Baby Boomers and Gen Y.