Feeling the Boom
But unlike the World War II generation — dubbed the “greatest generation” by NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw — boomers desire more personal involvement in a nonprofit organization, typically in a highly active volunteer role.
“Boomers are much more results oriented,” says Dr. Timothy Seiler, director of the fundraising school at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, citing research conducted on boomers. “They want to see clear, measurable, tangible results of their gifts and the work of the nonprofit organization.”
Most boomers would not be comfortable with simply writing a check and sending it off to the local cancer society without seeing how their gift benefits the community.
Boomers have less brand loyalty, Seiler says. They shop around and test organizations much like they would shop around for a new a bank.
“[Nonprofit organizations] have to prove themselves and prove themselves repeatedly,” Seiler affirms. “Baby boomers might think twice about giving repeatedly to an institution. They will consider whether or not their own needs have been met through previous gifts.”
Not only do boomers expect a high level of accountability from nonprofits, they also tend to favor small, local organizations over large, national ones — since they could readily see the impact of their gifts — as well as different types of charities. Where their parents give frequently to religious and faith-based charities, boomers direct their philanthropic attention to “greener” matters.
“Perhaps the most compelling thing we found in researching baby boomers is that they do not give as much to religious causes as the previous generation did,” Seiler says. “We think that’s important because the majority of philanthropy in the United States today goes to religion, and giving to religion tends to have a positive effect on giving to other causes as well.”
The issues that attract boomers’ attention and charity dollars tend to be connected to progressive causes: the environment, disease prevention, gay marriage, stem-cell research, civil rights, abortion, education reform, and child welfare, among others.