Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Generations and Giving

In the workshop I'm attending at the UUMA Institute, we've been talking about the different generations in our church and what motivates them to come, what calls them to be involved, and what they care about.  We've talked about what incidents shaped and defined these generations.  Today, the thought that came to me, prompted by something said by a colleague, was that if the generations are motivated by different things, not only does our membership and outreach efforts need to be targeted differently to each group, our pledge drive might be more effective if targeted differently to each group.

So, for example, the Silent Generation, born 1925-1945 are builders and institutionalists.  They dislike debt.  The Great Depression had a big impact on them, and they like frugality.  They are civic-minded, and the older members of this generation may have served in WWII, younger ones in the Korean War.  A pledge campaign that emphasizes the institutional needs and building needs will be something they might connect to more than one that emphasizes mission and vision or social justice or programming.  They also may respond to debt retirement campaigns.  A lot of this is also true for the generation that preceded them, the G.I. Generation.

The Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964 are very different from their parents.  Baby Boomers sometime like new experiences and sometimes like to be pampered a bit.  They like having a vision and are associated with rejecting some traditional values.  Hippies were Baby Boomers, as were Yuppies.  Baby boomers are more likely to give to programming, and to vision, and to social justice work.

Generation X, born from 1965 through the mid-eighties, are cynical about the lack of the vision of the Baby Boomers coming to fruition.  They tend to be pragmatic, but also to thrive on change and starting up new ideas.  If you have a new program to institute--and if it's practical with a solid plan--the Generation X members may be motivated to give to that.  Many of them have young children now, and are motivated by practical aspects of church life that involve their children, i.e. religious education.

Millennials, born between the eighties and 2000, are also having children now, at least the older ones.  They like technology, and are generally more optimistic than the generation that preceded them, and are more visionary and less pragmatic.  They are entrepreneurial and they like to have positive feedback.  They are less interested in joining organized religion, but those that are involved are more embracing of multiculturalism and diversity than generations that preceded them.  They may be motivated to give to projects that embrace their values, and to ones where they have the opportunity to lead or to learn.

Of course, these are broad stereotypes, and people may completely disagree.  But I'd like to hear less about what you disagree with than about what you think motivates your own generation or those you're in close connection with.  Our workshop is much more focused about how to attract and involve different generations -- this was just a side thought of mine about how this information that I've been focused on for years in these other arenas might be used in a pledge drive as well.

3 comments:

Cynthia Landrum said...

Oops -- accidentally deleted a comment that I was trying to hit "publish" on, and there's no "undo" in Blogger. This has happened before and will happen again, I'm sure. Here's the comment, though, as it read in my e-mail:

GratefulDedalus has left a new comment on your post "Generations and Giving":

This past Sunday I heard a member of my UU Congregation complaining about the money we donate to Meadville Lombard.
He was going to vote against it at the Congregational Meeting, and wanted others to do the same.
He was insisting that since UU has no fixed theology or core beliefs, there's no need for a theological school.

---------

My response:

As a graduate of a UU theological school, I have some thoughts about this. First, we do have an important history, and understanding our history and polity is important to our ministry. These things are taught best at our UU theological schools, and many UU ministers who attended other theological schools went to the UU schools for these courses. Secondly, many other theological schools will focus on specifically the theology of their tradition, leaving other theologies relatively uncovered and unavailable to its students. Our UU schools try to ground us in the diverse liberal theological tradition. In religious education, our UU schools teach us about our history in religious education and our current curricula and current and historical forms of religious education. And working with a UU faculty and being at a UU school gives our UU seminarians access to information about our process, our polity, our tradition, and our ministry. At non-UU theological schools, you have to learn all these things separately, because your school won't teach them to you. Also, being at a UU theological school gives you the support of a group of colleagues that you already know as you enter the ministry and are still learning the ropes, and those colleagues are of invaluable support. Lastly, Meadville Lombard, in particular, has the only UU library in the country, and as such is an important institution for those who believe in preserving the documents of our history and heritage. Few, if any, other places are going to archive the major and minor UU periodicals of yore.

Darrell Alan Dyke said...

RevCyn,
As a prospective student at large, who'll be taking one course this summer (praxis-style RE at Ferry Beach), and will most likely be enrolling this fall, I have just had many of feelings validated. Thanks for a meaningful, heartfelt response.

great blog!
Peace,
-darrell in Maine

Matinga Walker said...

Cindy, I'm noticing that your response is about UU theological schools vs. other theological schools. I'm wondering whether the complainant was saying seminarians could go to other schools or whether his thought was that seminary education is unnecessary period. My reading of the comment to which you were responding was leaning toward the latter.