The 28th is my birthday. And proud to be a Boomer, I thought I’d indulge in another stab — hopefully not all that necessary — at why fundraisers should focus on, well, me (and my ilk, of course). Versus those other demographic groups!

Fortunately, the case is well made in these comments that were sent by Kn Moy, the ‘innovation strategy’ guy at Masterworks. One of his assignments is to focus on ‘generational fundraising’ for his agency.

Kn was commenting on a couple of Agitator posts I did earlier this month — here and here — on Boomers and seniors (only partly overlapping groups, to be sure). Here’s what he had to say …

Dear Tom,

I agree with you that our industry’s preoccupation for reaching the young, specifically Gen Y, is a wholly misplaced priority — for many reasons. Here are a few:

  • No generation has suffered more from the Great Recession than Gen Y. Median net worth of people under 30 fell 37% between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13% hit.
  • The wealth gap today between Gen Y and Boomers now stands as the widest on record for any two generations. The median net worth of households headed by a Boomer is $170,494, 42% higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for Gen Y households is $3,662, down 68% from when Boomers were that age.
  • Just over two-thirds of the Class of 2010 graduated with an average debt of $25K in college loans, and 25% of graduates are currently behind in payments.
  • Millennials are not yet giving in proportion to their share of the population. Nor is Gen X. Boomers’ giving is nearly exactly that generation’s share of the nation’s total household income and wealth.
  • Millennials represent nearly 10% of households in the U.S., but collectively they account for a very low percentage of the nation’s household income and wealth.
  • In 2006, when considered as part of the overall giving picture in the U.S., monetary donations from Gen Y accounted for just 1.6% of total giving.
  • Before the recent Great Recession that redefined economic opportunities for Gen Y, donors who are Millennials gave an average total of $557 while Baby Boomer donors gave an average of $2614. Boomers gave 4.7 times as much as Millennials.

On the other hand, the Boomers today represent a veritable demographic earthquake ready to help nonprofits transform the world:

  • Boomers have the greatest economic clout of any generational cohort. They now control 80 percent of all wealth in the U.S. They control just over half of all disposable income. They spend more than any other generation, because they have more. To ignore the Boomers is financial suicide for nonprofits.
  • Because they have more, Boomers also give more to charity. Boomers who give to charity are a third more generous than their parents. For most not-for-profit organizations, Boomers represent the biggest opportunity for financial growth over the next two decades not only because they are more generous, but also because nearly two-thirds of Boomers — 52 million — now give money to charity. They are the largest giving cohort in history. Since the average Boomer donor gives financially to only to a handful of charities, unlike their parents who gave on average to 12 to 15 charities, the key challenge for nonprofits is becoming top-of-mind-and-heart for Boomer donors.
  • Boomers have the highest volunteer rates of any generation in the U.S., past or present. Just under half of all Boomers indicate they will volunteer at some point.
  • As Boomers enter their final chapter, it is a time of soul-searching, a time when many are thinking about their legacy and giving back. We see a never-before confluence of motivation, time, and financial ability. Where are they headed? What will they do for the rest of their lives? We in the nonprofit world can take a leading role in answering these questions for the Boomers if we can figure out how to crack the code on tapping into the Boomer psyche.

That’s what I spend my days working on. It’s an absolutely fulfilling undertaking … because the Boomers are primed to change the world. That’s what they all paid lip service to in the 60s. Now it’s their time to make good on their promise.

By the way, Boomers don’t like being called “seniors.” Boomers are the first youthful generation of older Americans. In fact, they don’t like the term “older Americans”: they don’t like to be labeled at all.

Kn Moy

Thanks, Kn. You’re right. Anybody calling me a “senior” is asking for trouble.


P.S. I’m most struck by Kn’s contention that Boomers are giving to fewer groups. Meantime, nonprofits continue to breed like rabbits. Somebody out there must be starving for funds. Or does the equation — more Boomers x more wealth to give — cover that proliferation? Where is that spike in giving we all expected to see as Boomers started coming of age, anyway?!

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