Odds are that in countless budget and board meetings this summer and fall there will be the usual share of naïve hand wringers warning that ‘our donors are too old’ and urging that ‘we simply must spend more to attract younger donors’.

Fortunately, Blackbaud has just released its Next Generation of American Giving study that provides some helpful ammunition to counter the ‘let’s-move-to-the-young-side’ zealots.

A quick glance at this pie chart taken from the Blackbaud study should make your budget priorities crystal clear. Baby Boomers — folks born between 1946 and 1964 and who are between 49 and 67 years old today — dominate charitable giving. The Boomers are giving four times more than the 18-32 year old Gen Y crowd.

And, when you combine the Boomers with what the Study calls ‘Matures’ (age 68+), this aggregate accounts for 69% of all giving.

As Mark Rovner, the Study’s author says, “In short, the odds are strong that for the vast majority of causes, your next donor will be over age 50.”

So that every Agitator reader has the same point of demographic reference, here’s how donors are categorized in the Blackbaud Study:

  • Matures (age 68+): 26%
  • Boomers (age 49-67): 43%
  • Gen X (age 33-48): 20%
  • Gen Y (age 18-32): 11%

Summary of Study’s Findings

I’ll come back to the importance of Boomers and some thoughts on that in a moment. First, the 10 key overall findings of the The Next Generation of American Giving:

  1. Most Americans give. Matures (Age 68+) are the most generous generation. A greater percentage of Matures give and they support a greater number of causes than younger generations. On average, individual Mature donors also give more money to the causes they support.
  2. Baby Boomers will exert an outsized influence on charitable giving for the foreseeable future. Representing roughly one-third of all adults who give, Boomers contribute more than 43% of all the dollars donated.
  3. Most donors across all age groups do not plan to expand their giving in the coming year.
  4. Multichannel is the new normal. While all generations are multichannel in their communications habits, the ideal mix varies from generation to generation.
  5. Direct mail is far from dead, but it also won’t last forever. More Baby Boomers say they give online than via direct mail. [NOTE: The Study issues two caveats to this: First, online giving appears to be more substitutional than additive. Second, donors use organizations’ websites for transactions, not so much for engagement.]
  6. Generation Y donors have distinct priorities and preferences with regard to causes they support. Notably, they are far more likely to demand accountability and transparency than older donors.
  7. The value of some channels (e.g. social media) is undervalued if measured by transaction metrics, as opposed to by engagement.
  8. Among transaction channels, the future looks cloudy for telemarketing and giving via SMS/text.
  9. Peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding, on the other hand, appear to have promising futures as fundraising strategies.
  10. Nearly half of those who give, engage with causes in ways other than making donations.

All This and Heaven Too

The report is jam-packed with something for everyone. Plenty of goodies for those interested in social media … lots of insights into single and multichannel behavior … some telling stats on e-mail vs. direct mail. [Don’t abandon the postage meter for the mouse!]

I think you’ll find the study’s Infographic on the transactional behavior by age group particularly interesting and helpful.

Meanwhile … Back To The Money

But if your main interest is raising money, for the foreseeable future you’ll want to pay attention to the ‘Matures’ and the ‘Boomers’ — particularly the Boomers.

Not only are Boomers far more likely to join a monthly giving program, they’re also great prospects for an ‘honor’ or  ‘tribute’ program. And, contrary to the general notion that digital is for the ‘young’, the fact is that all generations value a mix of online and offline.

By way of supplementing the Blackbaud findings with some robust and valuable fundraising insights into the type of shadow or ray of sunshine the Boomer generation is likely to cast in the immediate years ahead, I recommend you also read:

  • Tom’s post — Boomers:  Boom or Bust?— for some thoughts on whether the heralded Boomer Boom may, in fact, turn out to be a Bust.

Does your next year’s budget reflect special attention to the Boomers?


P.S.  For those watching developments in Mobile Giving, you’ll want to read the Study’s sections on Mobile.

In brief, SMS/Text Giving is pronounced ‘almost dead’, but actual mobile giving online through smart phones is on the rise — especially among the younger generations.





This article was posted in: Demographics, Direct mail, Fundraising analytics / data, Mobile marketing and fundraising, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media, Telemarketing.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.