The appeal of baby boomers as major donors

Baby boomers have a lot more time and money on their hands, making them effective major donors.
Date Published
08/27/2015

If your nonprofit lacks major donors, you may be looking at the wrong age group. Among demographics, one generation is shaping up to be the source of large contributions in the nonprofit industry: the baby boomers. As many of these people are either retirees now or close to the end of their careers, they want to make a legacy by giving back to the community at large. They also have a large nest egg from which to donate money. A strong donation strategy that targets baby boomers can help you gain a greater amount of funding over the long term.

Expressing yourself in your golden years
Baby boomers may lack in numbers, but they make up in dollars. Philanthropy.com found that 34 percent of all donors, some 51 million people, were born between 1946 and 1964. However, they contributed to 43 percent of all donations, supporting 4.5 charities on average. Their mean annual gift is $1,212, which translates to about $269 per charity. With a high amount of giving, just a few dozen boomers can net you tens of thousands of dollars.

Baby boomers donate so much money because they have a lot to give. According to Engage:Boomers, this generation holds 70 percent of all disposable income in the United States. They will spend a lot of it as well, the publication expected to spend $2.9 trillion per year in various expenses, give $35 billion to their grandchildren annually, and buy $7 billion worth of items a year online. That’s a lot of potential funding going around, making baby boomers the ideal major donor segment.

The reasoning behind their contributions is a key benefit to nonprofits as well. The Greatest and Silent Generations, for example, stuck to traditional avenues for their donations, usually religious organizations or the colleges they attended and graduated. This was done out of a sense of duty and respect for the institution in question. On the other hand, baby boomers like to donate because this is how they express themselves. They want their money to go towards something that is not only a good cause, but truly reflects who they are as human beings. They identify with the concerns they contribute to, the charity representing their self-interests. In response to this idea, many boomers are seeking a place on nonprofit boards as members and leaders, so as to project their passion and values.

Making it personal
So how do you reach out to baby boomers as a whole? You have to take a different approach than with other age demographics, especially in comparison to the Silent Generation. Boomers support fewer charities on average. To the Fundraising Resource Center, that means a smaller list that demands greater attention. You have to establish strong and personal communication between you and these donors. Check in regularly, see how they’re doing and let them know what’s going on at your organization. This will help you build a stronger relationship with them as a whole.

Another tactic is to reach out to boomers that have passions and values that fall in line with what your nonprofit does. Give them the experiences they desire so that they see reasons to continually donate. Sometimes, that will mean membership on your organization’s board of directors or leaderships. Other times, it’s simply working in the trenches through volunteer work.

Finally, you have to show your nonprofit as an authentic and real organization. Given their age and the wisdom they’ve accumulated with it, they can spot a phony from about a mile away. Present to them something that is more than just a plea for money, showing them your mission and what you’re doing out in the field to complete it. Such experiences play to their desires for deeper meaning in their lives, and push them to donate more.

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