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  • Impact Austin

Aha Moments & Lessons Learned: Generational Biases

The second of our DEIB Education webinars was another wow!

View the event recording below or on our YouTube channel:

Anna Liotta is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and consultant; the author of Unlocking Generational CODES®; and founder of Her mission is to help corporations and organizations to thrive by understanding what makes the generations tick - and what ticks them OFF. Learn more about Anna on LinkedIn.

When we want to really engage people, we need to understand the Generational CODES™ that are informing their actions and reactions.

Generational CODES™ are created by values, attitudes, beliefs, and motivators but also shaped by world events as formative experiences. As we ask people from various generations to join our work, we must give them a sense of belonging, assuring them that their voices and perspectives are heard.

Potential members of organizations like Impact Austin may ask, “Do I belong here? Do I see myself reflected in the membership? In their philanthropy? Do I feel permission to share my lived experiences?”

What makes the generations tick?

Each generation assumes the work of the previous generation and builds upon it. Those born 4 years before or after the span of each generation are “cuspers” and may identify with more than one generation.

Traditionalists (1927-1945) are 7% of the workforce, and many are still active volunteers. They respect authority and are hard-working, loyal, and disciplined, having grown up during wartime and the Great Depression. Work comes before pleasure.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are the largest generation. they grew up competitive, optimistically considering how to move up. “Never trust anyone over 30,” many still feel 29 in their hearts. They are 42% of the workforce with a loyalty to brands and institutions.

Gen-X (1965-1977) is a smaller generation, about half the size of the Boomers, and currently 29% of the workforce. The first generation of latchkey kids, they grew up accustomed to independence. They are self-managing, self-motivating “free agents.” Their top priority now is their Gen-Z kids, making them feel safe, seen, and heard. As potential volunteers and donors, Gen-X wants to know “how does ____ create a world for my kids going forward?” Gen-X wants transparency and won’t necessarily believe in long-term promise.

Millennials/Gen-Y (1978-1996) are another large generation and now 22% of the workforce. They became volunteers in school, as many were required to deliver 40 hours of community service. The “why” of volunteering is less necessary for a Millennial; they get it. Go straight to impact. 86% of Millennials believe they can make an impact in their lifetimes. About 50% of them became donors in grade school. Millennials' children (2013-2025) will become Gen Alpha.

Gen-Z (1997-2012) is a politically and socially active generation. They are accustomed to the world including them in conversation. They are influencers, using “likes,” followers, and peers to make an impact on the world. They attend more fundraisers and donate more often on peer-to-peer platforms than Millennials and Boomers. Gen-Z is fiercely inclusive, valuing others’ lived-experiences, and they will not tolerate inauthenticity.

As an organization, are we successfully creating multi-generational teams?

Do we demonstrate each day how we incorporate all voices, all viewpoints, all lived experiences?

  • Consider communications, meetings, agendas – where do we create opportunities for others to be heard? Do small groups help?

  • Do our visuals, music, metaphors include all generations? Do an audit. Do people feel represented?

  • Do our forms show inclusion and opportunity to belong?

  • Bring in people from the outside to demonstrate that the organization is moving forward.

  • Listen more. Talk less. When you ask a question, give space for the answer. Demonstrate respect.

  • With conflict or friction, it may not be personal! It may be generational.

  • By including all generations and all voices, we build collective wisdom and better solutions.

What should we understand about generational codes around giving and philanthropy?

Traditionalists – want to create a legacy

Boomers – want to build and proliferate

Gen-X – values leveraging money, skill, talent; wants to see nonprofits use money effectively

Millennials – looking for impact, especially global; see themselves on teams

Gen-Z – values inclusion and asks questions about systemic barriers

Everyone has a because (BE)CAUSE. Is each person’s “because” answered on our teams?

“I want to change the world. Can I do that from here?”

Many thanks to our DEIB Education Committee, including Carrie Maher and Julie Norton, and especially to our dynamic presenter Anna Liotta, CSP, CPAE (She/Her).


#JoinImpactAustin on Friday, October 15, for our third DEIB Education webinar that explores equity around gender identity and sexual orientation.

And find our recap and video from the first session that explored equity in the disability world.


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