As baby boomers, we just got a nice boost from Edge Research, which does marketing research for both profit-driven corporations and non-profit organizations. They surveyed adults who report that they have donated to a charitable cause in the last twelve months (beyond school, place of worship, and labor union). And in their advice to non-profit clients, our generation come out looking pretty darned good!
In our recent survey “The Next Generation of American Giving,” it was no surprise that Boomers and Matures report giving the most money to the most charities; they are more established financially and in their charitable values. Add to that the sheer size of the Boomer generation, and it is clear that they have taken the reins as the primary source of charitable giving now and into the foreseeable future. Boomers are the generational cohort that charitable organizations should focus on today.
But don’t forget the long game – our research shows that most Boomers and Matures first learned about their top charities in their 30s. Now is the time to cultivate the pipeline for future giving among younger generations. The return won’t be immediate, but it will pay off in the long run.
The generations are as similar as they are different in their giving behaviors. A fundraising strategy should be integrated across many channels, but with a slightly different emphasis by generation:
- Gen Y (b. 1981-1995) – They are the “social” generation, both virtually and in the real-world. Build engagement and harness the power of word-of-mouth through the social media they check in with daily and face-to-face events. Gen Y is more likely to give at check out and purchase a product where a portion of the proceeds goes to a charity; think of these shop-to-give opportunities as ways to raise a little cash and brand build with the younger generation. They are also comfortable making a mobile gift – but more so through a website or app than text.
- Gen X (b. 1965-1980) – Gen X is more established and more likely than Y to give money as a primary means of supporting a cause. They are truly multi-channel donors, and they want to hear about the impact of their donation. However, they are also still figuring out which causes they care about. Cultivate them through peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities (like fun runs) and workplace philanthropy. Though not as evangelical as Gen Y, large numbers of Gen X use social media for news and updates and to show their support for organizations.
- Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) – many Boomers established a connection with the organizations they care about in early adulthood, and they are now in a position to give financial support. Your strategy with Boomers can be less about increasing brand awareness and more about bringing in dollars. While many still give through direct mail, don’t dismiss digital channels – Boomers’ online giving and social media usage shot up since we last checked in with them in 2010. In fact, Boomers appear to be the transitional generation – the last one where direct mail will do the heavy lifting.
- Matures (b. 1945 or earlier) – tried-and-true direct mail fundraising has worked with this group for years, and continues to — they give regularly and generously. Direct mail is still incredibly important, far from dead, but it won’t last forever.
Bottom-line: Stop obsessing about younger donors, that’s not where the money is. However, if your average donor is 80, it’s time to worry. If the average age is 60, you are in the sweet spot. But younger generations are paying attention, and it’s important get on their radar with an integrated strategy today.