Generational Patterns of Giving
Old Hippies vs. Young Techies?
In “Philanthropic Cultures of Generational Archetypes,” Charles L. Eastman claims that four generational archetypes, or models of charitable behavior, have repeated themselves throughout specific periods of U.S. history. Eastman names and describes four consecutive generations which he calls the Civic, Adaptive, Idealistand Reactive generations. 1
The CIVIC Generation (born 1901 - 1924)
Eastman identifies what he sees as patterns of charitable giving unique to generations of Americans living today. The oldest givers are from the GI generation of World War II, born between 1901and 1924. This is what Eastman calls the Civic generation; a generation whose extraordinary charitable generosity and volunteer activity have been heralded and well documented. They are growing old, declining in numbers and rapidly dwindling as a critical segment in American philanthropy.
The ADAPTIVE Generation (born 1925 - 1942)
The Adaptive generation (also called the “Silent Generation”) are those born between 1925 and 1942. They have experienced tremendous social and technological change in their lives, their work, their relationships and, for some, even their personal priorities and values. This generation is transferring tremendous personal wealth to both their children and to charitable institutions.
The IDEALIST Generation (born 1942 - 1960)
The baby boomers, born between 1942 and 1960, constitute an Idealist generation. Their idealism embraces both liberal and conservative viewpoints. The influence of television on this generation, however, may have fostered a habit of snap judgments and an expectation of quick resolution of personal and social problems. They are engaged by hands-on charitable and volunteer efforts that are part of grand moral movements, according to the author, as evidenced by the popularity of organizations like Habitat For Humanity and those providing HIV/AIDS support and environmental advocacy.
The REACTIVE Generation (Born 1961 - 1981)
Generation Xers, born from1961 to around 1981, are a Reactive generation. They question the ideological and civic orientations of previous generations. Many grew up in dysfunctional families during times of high unemployment, low wages and little promise of personal advancement and wealth. They are disenchanted with politics but work hard for charitable causes, events and institutions that build their individual and collective relationships, perhaps seeking to replace what they missed in their early family life.
The MILLENNIALS (born mid-’80s - present)
Eastman labels the newest generation, those born from the mid-1980s on, as the Millennials. Early indications are that they will be a Civic generation. If so, this may hold great promise for the future of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in American society.
The diversity of charitable giving in our society is amazing and inspiring. May this brief overview of “who we are” and “why we give” aid you and your family in understanding and enhancing your own charitable efforts.