You Better Focus on Baby Boomers!
In the last several weeks I spoke at the funeral of my beloved mother-in-law and went to a party attended by Baby Boomers, of which I am a proud member. At my mother-in-law’s funeral I mentioned that she was part of the greatest generation, in my opinion, the Matures. She married my father-in-law in 1947, the same year my parents married. My father-in-law and father both served with distinction in World War II. When they came home from the war they both got married and started families. So did most of their fellow armed forces members. This phenomenon was one factor in the creation of the Baby Boomer concept.
Baby Boomers are the demographic born during the post-World War II baby boom, between 1946 and 1964. Seventy-six million children were born in the U.S. between those years. In 2013, the early Baby Boomers reached 67 years old, a common retirement age in the U.S.
Charities looking to bolster their fundraising efforts should focus their attention on Baby Boomers. This group will provide the bulk of money for charities for at least the next decade. A study commissioned by Blackbaud found that 51 million individuals gave an estimated total to charity annually of $61.9 billion. The total estimated annual contributions are $143.6 billion in the U.S. Social service agencies, houses of worship and health organizations were supported by the largest percentage of donors across all generations. Boomers and Matures are more likely to support veterans’ causes. Boomers are increasingly giving online as opposed to via direct mail.
In an article for The Balance, Joanne Fritz wrote that the Baby Boom generation began to turn 65 in 2011, and that 79 million baby boomers will celebrate their 65th birthday in the next couple of decades. Fritz emphasized six things your organization should know about Baby Boomers as they age:
- “Are Baby Boomers gloomy or optimistic?” Social science has found that people are happier as they age. Take advantage of the age advantage. Show this group they can make the world a better place through philanthropy.
- “Don’t think that Baby Boomers are all alike.” They are all different and yet, give them the information they need and ask them to help.
- “Baby Boomers are wiser and more generous.” People become more generous as they age. Tell them how their gifts make a difference with facts.
- “Baby Boomers are in great shape, but they don’t see well.” Bifocals anyone? Think about readability in print and materials you give this group. Make it easy for them to digest information.
- “Baby boomers do not think they are old.” They think old is at least 10 to 15 years older than they are so don’t make fun of them.
- “Look for Baby Boomers on social media.” Approximately 52 percent of Baby Boomers age 60 to 69 use Facebook. Use social media campaigns to inform them going forward.
While Baby Boomers provide a great charitable opportunity for you, be careful. In an article for The New York Times, Eric Nagourney noted that many of these individuals encountered a delay in their peak earnings due to late career entry, divorces and second families that have strained finances, and recessions that have influenced declining charitable donations. Fundraising professionals are finding it harder to develop relationships with educated Boomers, at times, but have established success when Boomers volunteer. Robert Grimm, director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park, noted in the article that Boomers tend to both give and volunteer.
To improve your fundraising performance, think about the groups of prospects you deal with on a daily basis. Each group consisting of Matures (68 and older), Gen X (33 to 48), Gen Y (18 to 32) and Baby Boomers should have different strategies and approaches. Find out what works for each group and use it to your advantage.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.