Five Insights for Managing a Generationally Diverse Fundraising Team

By Susan Fields, CFRE

Major economic and cultural shifts in American society over the past five decades have drastically altered the workplace of private business and the nonprofit sector with more than 20% of the labor force indicating that they plan to work into their seventies. In addition, a Pew Research Center analysis of the U.S. Census Data indicates that one-third of employees are currently Millennials and will eventually make up the largest share of the US workforce. As a result, many employers will find themselves grappling with the challenges of managing staff that could span up to five generations—all with differing values, skills, and workstyles.

Because the most difficult task a nonprofit leader can face is keeping everyone on their team happy, motivated, and productive, this AFP Educational Program focused on providing nonprofit managers with “in the trenches” strategies for maximizing staff productivity in a generationally diverse environment.

Traditionalists- born prior to 1945

Loyal, Disciplined, Old-School, Veterans,

Reserved, Women in the Home


Baby Boomers- 1946 to 1964

Strong Work Ethic, Competitive, Sexual Equality

Two-Income Families, Money and Prestige Oriented


Gen X- 1965 to 1980

Financial and Health Care Motivated,

Mistrustful of Establishment, Self-Employed


Milliennials– 1981 to 1999

Entitled, Optimistic, Raised on Technology,

Under-employed, Justice and Fairness


Gen Z– born to 1999

Realistic, Cynical, Multi-Tasking, Private,

Entrepreneurial, Hyper-Tech Dependent


Five Insights for Managing a Generationally Diverse Fundraising Team

1. Establish Multigenerational Teams– The best way to encourage a collaborative learning environment is to create project teams that are varied in age, skills, experience, and perspective. In addition, it is important for managers to hold regular staff meetings with an educational and/or problem-solving component to assist in building employee cohesiveness through sharing the “big picture” of their organization. Opportunities for intergenerational mentoring can also create a sense of respect and cooperation—with older members of the staff sharing career-building ideas and Millennials providing tutelage in technology systems.

2. Reach Beyond Stereotypes– Although generational groups have specific similarities, keep in mind that just because a person is a certain age does not necessarily mean they fit the profile. Keep in mind that each employee is an individual with unique hopes, dreams, talents, and skills—who seeks to be instrumental in your organization’s success. Listen to the people that are on your management team, watch them as they work, and ask yourself how you can make them the best that they can be. As a rule of thumb, Millennials tend to seek out more affirmation for their efforts while Boomers, although they like regular communication with their supervisor, require less validation.

3. Establish Core Expectations– In organizations with a wide-range of age groups, it is important to set non-negotiable policies such as specific work hours, number of sick days, rules about working at home, dress code, pets in the office, and flexible hours. Each organization, based upon its culture and capabilities, will set different policies with various levels of flexibility. The most important thing to consider is to create this structure with parity across age levels with an understanding of the needs of your employees. For instance, some nonprofits might wish to establish a fixed number of hours worked each day within a specific time frame such as 8:00am through 7:00pm—with limits on the number of days an employee can work from home.

4. Communicate Openly About Generational Differences– Include this topic on the agenda of one of your staff meetings, inviting everyone to share their viewpoints and perspectives. For instance, a common issue in multigenerational organizations centers around attitudes toward change—with older workers often threatened that they might lose their status or even their jobs. Traditionalists and Boomers have been exposed to a more structured and “top down” work culture where “information is power” while Millennials tend to value transparency and open access to information that previously would have been only available to senior staff.

5. Nothing is Perfect– As with everything else, there is no “one size fits all” strategy in managing a multigenerational workplace. The best approach is a willingness to listen to the ideas and needs of staff, to be open to new ways of thinking and doing, and to understand that the wide range of talents and values that come along with a diverse workforce can be of immeasurable benefit to any organization. From Millennials who passionately seek to make a difference in the world to Boomers and Traditionalists who value prestige, position, and money—there is no “right or wrong” in what motivates people.

Enjoyed reading this? Join us for more AFP-NYC Educational Programs at


Friday, June 22, 2018, Marriott Marquis, NYC

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