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    September 14, 2008

    The generational privacy gap

    In a recent discussion with a client about virtual donor walls, the client expressed apprehension that donors would not want their names plastered on the web for all to see, and wondered what implications this might have not only for donors' privacy, but also in terms of identity theft. Someone, could, say look up a donor, see how much they gave, figure out this person had money...This was a more than reasonable concern, especially with all the news lately about information being lost, stolen, "misplaced" by everyone from your neighborhood Marshall's store to the Veterans' Affairs Administration.

    Should the donor's name be password protected? If so, how could the donors share this with family and friends? What about sending a unique URL? How many donors would even be interested in being identified on the web in monetary giving circles?

    This whole discussion got me thinking about privacy and the apparent generationl divide about what we are and are not willing to accept about the web.

    Unlike our older, and perhaps through experience, wiser counterparts, Gen Yers and the generations coming after us seem to have no qualms about web privacy-in fact, many of us ravel in telling anyone and everyone who cares to peruse our profiles, blogs, twits, more than anyone would ever care to know.

    An article in New York Magazine explored this at length, noting that the world has not seen this kind of "generational gap" in more than 50 years, not since the 60's has the divide between "young" and "old" interest and idea of "acceptable" behavior has been so great, claims the author.

    A 2006 Pew Survey, Generation Next, among other things found that the majority of Gen Yers aspire to be rich and famous, and with fame, as Paris Hilton I am sure will be more than happy to tell anyone who will listen, comes lack of privacy.

    So what does all this mean about marketing to Gen Y? Perhaps that Gen Yers would be less hesitatant than older donors to have their names featured on organization's websites as "thanks" for donations.

    Who knows, maybe the promise of having one's name featured on a virtual donor wall for the entire world to see would actually encourage younger donors to give, and it might push their friends to give-so their names can be featured too.

    But for this generation, which has to be told to take care of just exactly what they post on their public profiles in case they ever want to get a job, privacy is an evolving concept.

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