Book Post #8: Case study of a multi-generational office

Emily and I conducted a case study with Palomar Pomerado Health Foundation development office, a multi-generational development office, during December 17-21, 2010. A BIG thank you to PPH for participating in this survey!!

The development office of eleven staff members was asked to participate and nine completed the survey.  One third of the participants are from the Baby Boomer Generation and two thirds are from Generation X. Two staff members have been a development professional for less than one year, one has development professional for one to five years, two for five to ten years, two for ten to15 years, one for 20 to 30 years and one for 30 to 40 years.

We asked the development officers about:

  • Advice for about working in a multi-generational office
  • Strategies for engaging the younger generations as donors
  • Working with the different generations in the office
  • Succession planning

I will be posting the results for each of these areas in the next couple of weeks.


When asked about communication, the majority (89%) of respondents (i.e. development professionals) communicate with co-workers in person and 78% via email. The majority (56%) of all respondents communicate with donors and potential donors on the phone, 44% in person, and 44% via email.

The majority (100%) of all respondents notice generational benefits and challenges (71%) in working in a multigenerational office setting. They shared advice in order for other development offices to have better communications among staff from multiple generations.

  • Keep open communication between co-workers and allow individuals to take responsibility for projects from beginning to end.
  • Appreciate the different perspectives and recognize individual strengths and weaknesses that can benefit the overall group.
  • Host staff trainings on learning how each generation learns best and how to best communicate with each other.

The participants offered advice for better communications with donors from multiple generations.

  • Keep the lines of communication open via multiple avenues (mail, in person meetings, email, social networking, and events)
  • Accept each donor’s preferences for communicating and communicate according to their wishes. Often younger generations prefer communication to “cut to the chase” while older generations often prefer the longer explanation.

Ultimately, it is all about Aretha Franklin: RESPECT, RESPECT, RESPECT. Each generation wants to be appreciated. Just because YOU want to be communicated with in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the case for your co-workers from other generations. For your office, the best tip is to ask simple questions: how do you like to be communicated with? face to face? email? text? And even if it feels different to you, RESPECT how your co-workers want to communicate.

Next post will continue reporting on the case study, focusing on Generation X in the office.


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