Should GenX Be Our Collective Primary Audience?

Should GenX Be Our Collective Primary Audience?


9 April 2024


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Last year in December, I wrote a blog post about how land trusts might be able to get younger. The post seemed to resonate and was even picked up in the most recent issue of the Alliance’s Saving Land magazine.

In that post, I talked about the need to examine our branding and marketing materials.

When Gen-Xers look at the land trust, what do they see?

                  • If the answer is a vibrant, welcoming organization that is seen as a valued community asset …
                  • If the answer is organizational leadership that includes people they know and respect – peers – and that look like them …


Then the organization will grow and evolve. But if the faces of land trust leadership are substantially the same as they were 20 years ago, the organization runs the risk of being seen as an institution – something to appreciate and use, but not necessarily a place to plug in.

I think most of our materials and messaging could be updated to be more relevant, and especially for younger people.


My question for this week is this: OK – but HOW young?

While I hear land trusts focusing more and more on getting “younger,” most are targeting Millennials – adults 25-45, early in their careers, with young children and families. Many are scrambling financially, balancing student debt, two jobs (or more!), buying a first home, and the needs of young children.

Millennials are not monolithic, of course – a point I also made in the December post. In fact, “people who care about the environment” will have much more in common with each other – regardless of age – than Millennials do with other Millennials. So what can we know about Millennials?

As a gross generalization, Millennials never knew a world without the internet. They prefer communication that is fast, convenient, and tech-savvy. They want to know what’s in it for them. Land trusts focused on communicating with Millennials – often with a tech-savvy Millennial in the lead – are moving away from traditional communications entirely, doubling down on media that works on cell phone screens and abandoning face-to-face, phone calls, and paper.

And I believe that is a mistake.


Instead, I think we should be aiming our communication materials at an audience in their 40s and 50s. In other words, NOT Millennials. The youngest GenXers (and the oldest Millennials) are just now turning 45. The oldest are about to turn 60. GenXers’ youngest children are getting ready for college, and they are beginning to think more about retirement, downsizing, and travel. They have more disposable time and more disposable money than they have ever had.

And some are turning that corner where mattering becomes more important than just living.

GenX is not monolithic either, of course. So what can we know about GenX?

GenXers grew up in the transition years between analog and digital and witnessed the early years of the internet. As a gross generalization, they are less idealistic than their Boomer parents, pragmatic, and drawn to causes that address systemic issues – including environmental issues. They embrace the idea of thinking globally but acting locally.

GenXers tend to appreciate direct communication that is concise and to the point. They value authenticity and sincerity, preferring genuine interactions over superficial exchanges. They want to know about impact. They are also likely to appreciate a balance between traditional communication methods, such as face-to-face conversations or phone calls, and digital channels like email and messaging apps.

The beauty is that by focusing on GenX as a primary audience, we will also be speaking effectively to Millennials. It’s not a binary choice.


Instead of recruiting Millennials to the Board, look for GenXers.

  • Consider adopting term limits to stimulate regularly bringing new people into organizational leadership.
  • Be very intentional about leadership development. Give new people the tools, the training, and the encouragement to become leaders. And then have the courage to step aside and trust them to do so.
  • Use an advisory committee as a way to invite new people to engage and give retiring board members a meaningful way to stay engaged.


And take a close look at organizational communications – or better yet, assemble a team of GenXers to do it for you. Comb through the photos on the website, on social media, and in newsletters. Do they include photos of people? (Most should!) And if you were 45-65 years old, would you see people who look like you?

Or do you look “old?” With newsletters that look and read like news-papers? Is your website full of photos of men and women in their 70s? Is the average age of your Board directors more than 65? Are you having trouble holding onto younger board directors? Do they report having trouble finding a “place”?

Or at the other extreme, have you abandoned paper communications completely? Do your Facebook and Instagram posts sound like they were written by 20-somethings?

If so, it might be time for an update. A rebrand. A makeover. And then be patient. If your organization is perceived a certain way, it may take years to change that perception.


Love to hear your thoughts.


Cheers and Have a Good Week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Siegfried Poepperl courtesy Pixabay



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  • David L
    Posted at 08:14h, 09 April

    We now have a majority of our board who are 50 years old (or thereabouts). Their common refrain goes something like: “Can’t our annual appeal just be a half page, or one side of a paper at most? No one has time to read 4 pages.” I share the data; I share stats on the size of our average gift; I channel David Allen.

    Finally, I relented and agreed to do an A/B test with a shorter letter for their friends and families. Part of me says, that’s okay. Their friends and family gifts are transactional — noblesse oblige. When those directors’ terms are up, those gifts from out of staters will end. My bigger problem is that these directors are not helping cultivate a local community of caring for the mission. Maybe we can talk about this Some Time Thursday…

    • David Allen
      Posted at 08:31h, 09 April

      In almost every case, a letter of any length that is personalized to the relationship a board director has with a friend or family member will outperform a generic letter, even one of four pages. That’s not an A/B test. An A/B test would randomly split your entire audience into two statistically identical groups. One would receive the half-page letter. The other would receive the four-page letter. If you do an A/B test like that, let me know. I will be interested in documenting the results.

      The real question for your board directors is this: How much less are you willing to accept in net returns if we limit the appeal letter to just a half-page? 10% less? 20%? 25%?

      Thank you for the comment – see you on the call in May!