All about Gen Z
What do we know about Gen Z (or Generation Z, iGen, post millennials)? Let’s start with a definition. The label “Gen Z” broadly refers to the generation born between 1997 and 2012 immediately following the millennials. In the coming decades, this generation numbering around 68 million people, or close to 20% of the U.S. population, will become a powerful source of consumer spending and most likely donations too. So how much do we really know about this powerful and influential group?
We’ve all heard the stereotypes. Gen Z are addicted to their phones, have a short attention span, don’t want to work, and are obsessed with social media. As with most stereotypes, these are mostly untrue.
Generation Z is the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and largest generation in American history. Gen Z grew up with technology, the internet, and social media. The average Gen Z got their first smartphone just before their twelfth birthday. They communicate primarily through social media and texts and spend as much time on their phones as older generations do watching television. Gen Z’ers are different from older generations, because they are the first consumers to have grown up wholly in the digital era. They’re tech-savvy and mobile-first.
This reliance on technology, or more correctly comfort level and acceptance of technology, has led to considerable criticisms of Gen Z, including the stereotypes mentioned earlier. Much of this is really a generational comprehension issue, meaning it comes from a misunderstanding of what it is like to grow up in today’s world when compared with how older generations grew up.
For example, Gen Zers are often criticized for being lazy, idealist and always wanting an easy way to make money. While we might not all understand or relate to the Tic Tok influencer or You Tuber earning money from their posts and videos, that is equally as valid as perhaps getting a paper route or a part-time job in a store for a previous generation. These channels offer a modern option (for some) to make a supplementary income – and yes in rare cases a full time income. Gen Z are simply embracing the opportunities available.
If you are a regular viewer of ESPN, you will often commentators, usually former athletes, offer the opinion that today’s new wave of stars are lazy, overpaid, soft, and couldn’t have survived in their day. Perhaps it is just human nature to think we all had it harder than the generations who followed.
But, far from being a lazy, self-centered, unmotivated generation, and with the disclaimer that there are always limitations to making generalizations about a group of nearly 70 million people, it turns out that Gen Z is a diverse, tech savvy collaborative, pragmatic, open-minded, financially aware, sociable generation that tends to care about their future, and the future of our planet.
The retail and e-commerce markets were among the first to realize and accommodate these characteristics. After ignoring the digital revolution and millennial buyers for too long, retailers and brands have spent the last decade trying to catch up to millennials’ interests and habits—so it’s critical for them to get ahead of Gen Z’s tendency to be online at all times, and make sure to meet this generation’s digital expectations.
But what about the nonprofit sector and charitable donations? Research suggests that Gen Z is indeed passionate about many causes just like their generational siblings, the Millennials. But in contrast to Millennials, who studies have shown to be highly idealistic and optimistic, Gen Z is a generation of realists, especially when it comes to their finances.
Gen Z is very particular when it comes to choosing who they support. They want to see evidence of impact more than any generation. They want to know what exactly their money is supporting. They want feedback and a feeling of connection.
When they choose to get behind a certain cause, the support from Gen Z can be powerful. Just look at all of those crowdfunding pages flooded with donations. Gen Z is more likely to make use of social media, peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, and technology in general to boost the causes they care about. This use of technology can have a major amplifying effect.
Nonprofits who are wise to these trends are investing in emerging technologies that streamline the giving process, are easily shareable, and boost the impact of donors. Modern, streamlined giving platforms, like Donate Now, Pay Later and Give Now, Pay Later (both from B Generous) are great examples of emerging technologies nonprofits are using to tap the giving potential of our youngest generation.
Fundraising tools like Donate Now, Pay Later build on the widespread acceptance of Buy Now, Pay Later in the consumer retail space. Buy Now Pay Later has been used by almost 80% of Gen Z buyers. B Generous has created a similar, familiar methodology that let’s donors make a full donation to the charity they choose, have the charity receive that donation upfront, but allow the donor the flexibility to pay that donation off over three to nine months with no additional cost to the donor.
Most people assume that younger people give less to charity. This is only partially true. Gen Z donations make up a small portion of total U.S. giving, but their participation rate is high with 75 percent of Gen Z members making charitable donations during the pandemic. As Gen Z earning power grows so too will their share of the donation pie and they will become a defining force in the nonprofit sector.
Nonprofits that are ahead of this trend, who take advantage now of emerging technologies, will be able to harness the giving potential of a generation that is motivated, passionate, and looking to make a measurable impact on the world. Regrettably, nonprofits relying on an aging donor population writing checks at year end may struggle.