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Let’s talk about mid-career alumni for a moment. These are the forgotten ones, or as they are more commonly referred to: Generation X.
They entered your University in the excess of the 80s and the grunge of the early 90s. They graduated into a world of economic uncertainty that makes today look like, well, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. They are sandwiched between the Boomers who your fundraising team is chasing at break-neck speed and the Millenials who you’re struggling to coddle comprehend.
Born somewhere between 1965 and 1980, this shrinking 46 million strong member generation has seen Watergate, Three Mile Island, the Iran hostage crisis and the Clinton-Lewinski scandal. X’ers spent less time with their parents than any previous generation and earned the additional moniker of “latchkey kids.” They missed being awarded a gold star for such essential skills as being potty trained and watched their parent’s divorce rates spiral into the atmosphere.
They learned self-reliance and independence early. And while they don’t get the tech savvy credit their younger siblings the Millenials do, Gen X saw the computer shrink from room to desktop size and the introduction of social networking: email, forums and chat rooms. They're quiet, sometimes eerily so compared to other generations and independent to a fault.
To use a 3 child analogy, Generation X is the middle child. Stuck between the large, loud mouthed eldest Boomer generation and the ginormous, self-absorbed youngest child Millenial generation, Gen Xers don’t even garner “niche” marketing status. Nope, they just get ignored in favor of courting the other two children.
And that’s about where most Universities across the nation lump their mid-career alumni: niche, not necessarily worth pursuing. You’ll find programs aimed at the affluent Boomers and growing social media platforms to engage recent graduates. But mid-career? They’re fine. They’ll fend for themselves. Because you know, silence is consent so they must love what we're doing. Right?
But you’d be overlooking some very worthwhile potential alumni if you fall for that approach.
Generation X after all created a lot of this ‘media’ stuff that Millenials use as their, “mirror, mirror on the wall.” Consider these icons:
- Quentin Tarrantino – reshaped popular film
- Jon Stewart – we’ve never watched the news the same again
- Google, YouTube, Amazon and more are products of Generation X
- AOL – another Gen X offering. Laugh if you want, but “The Internet” with training wheels allowed social media titans like Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerburg to learn to ride and then build their own bikes
There’s a good percentage of untapped wealth and intellectual firepower in Generation X.
There’s also a challenge in finding them. Because they graduated into the stock market crash of the late 80s and worked through more bursting bubbles (savings and loan, stock, internet, real estate) than most, Gen X’ers hoard when they can because the next bursting bubble is just around the corner. It’s frightening because your mid-career years have traditionally been known as the earning years. You know, that time in your life when things settle in and you can bank money for retirement?
That time does not, and has not existed for X’ers.
As a result, they move: jobs, homes and geography. It can be a nightmare trying to keep up with their addresses and current job title. Check your returned postal mail, they are very likely tipped in favor of graduates from 1986 to 2000.
So how do you connect with this group?
- Linkedin is a great start. It’s an acceptable social network for X’ers. It is right up an independent networker’s alley because it is more passive than Facebook, less cluttered than Twitter (at least for now), and if needed, it can help land a job.
- Print media isn’t dead (yet). But, you’ve got to do feature stories on someone who isn’t over the age of 60 and not in your Top 30 under 30 category.
- Email works. Unlike your Millenials, this is a group that fell in love with, “You’ve Got Mail” and it has stuck around ever since. Don’t flood their inbox. Respect their time and attention spans.
So how do you raise money with this group?
- Planned giving. It’s in the future with an acceptable and affordable payment plan now. It lets them feel like they are giving back without putting them in a choke-hold.
- Big idea giving. After all, these folks don't expect anyone will talk about them after they are dead, so it's best to approach them with big ideas which have the potential to stick.
To close the book on this X article, don’t ignore them in favor of others. Many have, and that is your opportunity to forge a bond that if begun properly will pay off now and certainly down the road. After all, there are more than a few of this generation who believe, “GenXers are doing the quiet work of keeping America from sucking.”
Author: Don Crow is Founder & CEO at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media
assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative
Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team
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