Fundraising Across Generations, Generational Philanthropy, In the development office

Book Post #10: Baby Boomers in the Office (through the eyes of Gen X)

Hi, my name is Renee Herrell and I am a Gen Xer.

Admittedly, I have worked with Baby Boomers and wondered:

  • How do they not know how to email?
  • Why do they handwrite out everything… in pencil?

Case in point: When I was a Special Events Coordinator,  I could not fathom my boss’s (a Baby Boomer and head of the development function at this particular charity) method for reading and responding to emails.

  1. Her assistant would print out her emails.
  2. She would read her emails on a printed piece of paper.
  3. Then, she would write out a response by hand.
  4. Finally, her assistant would type up the email response and send.

I couldn’t imagine a more inefficient way to deal with your emails.

Now that was nearly ten years ago.  Recently, I was consulting for a client and one of the staff members — a Baby Boomer — was helping with grant research.  She would conduct the grant research online. Points for working knowledge of online research.  BUT, she would handwrite – in pencil – her notes about grants, their deadlines, their requirements, etc. on paper.  She would then type up her handwritten notes on the computer.  Although grant research is quite time consuming – believe me, I know — I could not figure out for the life of me why it took my colleague weeks to come up with a list of potential grants.  And, then I learned her process.  It was crystal clear.  It would take me months to complete grant research in that method.

I’m a copy and paste kinda gal when doing online research. It makes it easy.  It makes it quick.  And it is a habit of my generation.  One day the younger generations, Gen Ys or the Now Generation, are going to wonder why it takes me a couple of minutes to respond to an email when they are able to respond in seconds — with new and better technology — that I can’t figure out.

It is the circle of life.

Back to the Palomar Pomerado Health Foundation Case Study.  Here are the findings and responses of Generation X about working with their older co-workers, the Baby Boomers.

Generation X respondents were asked specific questions about working with the older generation, Baby Boomers. They reported that the benefits of working with staff over the age 45 are:

  • the experience that they bring to the office
  • their life experiences are invaluable when relating to all kinds of situations
  • that they are better with face-to-face interactions

They report that the challenges of working with staff over the age 45 are:

  • that they are not open to new ideas such as social networking
  • that they like more traditional ways of interacting with donors and potential donors
  • that sometimes it is difficult to get them to move beyond the old ways of doing things and adapt to technology and current times
  • a lack of flexibility for new situations and Lack of technology knowledge

Generation X respondents were asked specific questions about professional growth within the office. The majority (33%) of Generation X respondents agreed that they are given ample or sometimes (33%) given opportunity to lead within your organization and the development function. The majority (67%) of Generation X respondents did not feel that it is an age-related issue or another issue.

Gen Xers have or want to gain in their current and future positions (in priority order):

  • additional experience
  • a higher position
  • fundraising training workshops
  • undergraduate degree
  • certificate or masters degree

The majority (67%) of Generation X respondents agreed that they are offered regular opportunities for professional advancement (workshops, formal education, certificates, mentoring, etc.) and that there is funding in the organization’s budget for professional development in the fundraising department although the comments reflected that the funding is limited.

According to Working Across Generations, older generations want the younger generations to:

  • Acknowledge their work and contributions (over the last 40-60 years)
  • Support their relevancy now, not just in the past
  • Recognize the legacy they are leaving behind


As a Baby Boomer, can you share a story of working with the Gen X or Yer? What are the benefits and challenges of working with the younger generations?


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