Feeling the Boom
They grew up in postwar suburbia, sheltered snugly in the first paradigmatic, single-family homes. They were raised to fear the Reds and adore Ed Sullivan. They were the first children to get hooked on television.
Now, with the first wave of baby boomers nearing retirement age, and many starting to receive inheritances from their parents, America’s largest and most compelling generation presents an unprecedented fundraising opportunity — and a challenge — to nonprofits.
Born between 1946 and 1964, the 77 million baby boomers in the United States compose a drastically different generational demographic than that of their parents. According to a study released late last year by national nonprofit coalition Independent Sector and AARP, “Experience at Work: Volunteering and Giving Among Americans 50 and Over,” the boomer population is more likely to have graduated from college and volunteered in their youth — strong indicators of high civic involvement.
Over the next 10 years, the over-50 population in the United States is expected to increase by 18.3 million people — including 13.9 million between the ages of 50 and 64, the report says. And because these individuals will still be working, they’re expected to become the most generous givers and have more time for volunteer activities as they approach retirement.
Many fundraisers and researchers also point to the vast wealth transfer that has started to occur: Boomers are due to receive a collective inheritance of at least $7.2 trillion, according to the Social Welfare Research Institute at Boston College.
“Nonprofits would be well served to customize their approach to recruit [baby boomers],” says Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “… Non-profits ought to seize this opportunity to engage older Americans.”
How boomer donors differ
Boomers are far more likely to be college educated than their parents, as financial-assistance programs were more prevalent around the time they were coming of age. The boomer demographic also has more discretionary income, according to statistics. And boomers have forestalled certain life events, such as having babies in their 30s instead of in their 20s.