When we released our recent DonorTrends white paper, Giving Across the Generations, we noted the reported fall-off in Boomer (1946-1964) giving, compared to older and younger generations.

Discussing the phenomenon, we cited a study by Pew Research, which termed Boomers "The Gloomiest Generation." Pew’s study paints a picture where Boomers are quite pessimistic about their economic situation and future prospects.

Not a good mind set for fundraisers to deal with! And that was before the world economy crashed.

Well, here’s more bad news — presented in an excellent piece in Adweek — about Boomer consumer psychology. Keep in mind that Boomers in the States account for half of consumer spending.

In this analysis, Boomers are entering a period, perhaps permanent, of major retrenchment in spending, including a major re-assessment of "value" in the goods and services they purchase and consume. The marketers cited in the article attribute this to a "tectonic shift" in attitudes brought about by Boomers’ gloomy assessment of their discretionary income.

Here are some of the more intriguing quotes from the article:

"We’re seeing a shift from a trade-up culture to a trade-off culture. What brands are going to be part of my life, which ones are indispensable or dispensable?"  Ben Kline, Leo Burnett Agency

"In the industrial era, we were good at creating perceived value. but now people are getting back to basics and the future of marketing is to create real value. Perceived value is about how much we can get people to consume and that is patently at odds with the new realities of the economy. Real value delivers long-term outcomes, making people smarter, better off, healthier."  Umair Haque, Havas Media Lab

"People will feel poorer because at the same time their income growth slows, they’ll be paying more towards higher taxes, energy costs and healthcare. When people think of their standard of living, they think of discretionary spending, which has always been an expression of their freedom. While their income might not go down, their discretionary spending could remain stagnant or decline."  Robert Samuelson, Newsweek writer & author, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: Past and Future of Affluence

What does this mean for fundraisers?

Perhaps nothing. Perhaps Boomers will continue to find "real" value in charities and causes, and continue to support them.

Perhaps we simply accept this Boomer gloom as the hand we’re dealt and focus on sharpening our fundraising tactics.

Perhaps we’re smoking dope if we believe that Boomers will not cut back on the number of nonprofits to which they have traditionally contributed (not yours of course) and will not be so inclined to support new causes and charities (except yours of course).

What do you think?

I say: Whatever value you assigned to your existing donors — say, a year ago — multiply that number by 3 or 5 or 10. Figuratively (and maybe actually), that’s how valuable your current donors are today! What are you doing to deliver "real" value to them?


P.S. Question: Which do Agitator readers find more useful: this sort of big picture psych stuff, or more of "7 ways to get your fundraising emails opened"? Tell us.



This article was posted in: Communications, Demographics, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, DonorTrends / DonorVoice, Nonprofit branding, Nonprofit management.
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