The 100-day countdown starts today

January 1, 2011, is 100 days away. If you haven’t been counting, now is a good time to start. There are now 100 days until the first Baby Boomers turn 65. And starting that day, the Boomers just keep pouring into 65-hood every single day for the next 18 years.

This is a big deal for us.

While giving behavior typically starts to manifest meaningfully in the 50s, it really takes off around age 65. By all ways of measuring giving, the 65+ crowd are the champions. They give more, give more often, and are significantly more loyal to the organizations they support. When you have 65+ donors, you have the mother lode.

That’s why January 1, 2011 is an important day for fundraisers. The good news: There are going to be more 65-and-up people than ever in the history of the world. The not-so-good news: These Boomers show some different behaviors and preferences than older generations. We’d better figure them out!

And say happy birthday to those leading-edge 65-year-old Boomers on January first!


Comments

6 responses to “The 100-day countdown starts today”

  1. We are constantly being told that as baby boomers are different; more marketing-savvy, more questioning, more interested in a reciprocal and dynamic relationship with a charity and more tech-savvy, we should appeal to them in a different way.
    We should be more transparent, we should offer more choice, we should feedback better on how their donation has helped, we should not over-do the emotional stuff and instead offer more information and intellectual-based arguments.
    This all makes sense. It’s very plausible.
    The problem is it also sounds very similar to what donors have always said they want in focus groups and questionnaires – the sort of thing that is shown again and again to be more a reflection of how donors like to see themselves, rather than, in reality, how donors actually behave.
    I’m yet to see much consistent evidence that a more baby-boomer-friendly approach has achieved better results than the traditional method of asking for something specific and tangible, backed up by emotional personal stories.
    People often say as they get older they become more and more like their parents and people often say, as they get older, they get more right-wing – therefore people can change as they get older in exactly the same way the generation before did.
    Whose to say, in 10-20 years time, baby boomers won’t be behaving in exactly the same way as traditional donors do now?

  2. We are constantly being told that as baby boomers are different; more marketing-savvy, more questioning, more interested in a reciprocal and dynamic relationship with a charity and more tech-savvy, we should appeal to them in a different way.
    We should be more transparent, we should offer more choice, we should feedback better on how their donation has helped, we should not over-do the emotional stuff and instead offer more information and intellectual-based arguments.
    This all makes sense. It’s very plausible.
    The problem is it also sounds very similar to what donors have always said they want in focus groups and questionnaires – the sort of thing that is shown again and again to be more a reflection of how donors like to see themselves, rather than, in reality, how donors actually behave.
    I’m yet to see much consistent evidence that a more baby-boomer-friendly approach has achieved better results than the traditional method of asking for something specific and tangible, backed up by emotional personal stories.
    People often say as they get older they become more and more like their parents and people often say, as they get older, they get more right-wing – therefore people can change as they get older in exactly the same way the generation before did.
    Whose to say, in 10-20 years time, baby boomers won’t be behaving in exactly the same way as traditional donors do now?

  3. Ed, I mostly agree with you here. We’re finding Boomers aren’t radically different from previous generations. But they are different in some ways we can’t ignore.
    Most of the Boomer-friendly tactics you describe do actually work better than the old way. (It’s worth noting that those things also work better with older donors.) But not your last one.
    Here’s what I’m seeing in fundraising:
    – More transparent: YES, it improves response and retention.
    – More choice, YES, it works better, increasing both average gift and response rate.
    – More feedback on the impact of their giving: YES, it often dramatically improves donor retention rates.
    – Less emotion, more intellectual arguments: NO, NO, NO! That fails every single time, and with every audience.
    I realize some are saying less-emotional fundraising is the way of the future, and often making a generational case. But they are wrong.
    We’re seeing that as Boomers age, they are responding to the mail, much as their parents did. But industry-wide, response rates are trending down, while online giving grows. That is largely driven by the movement of Boomers into the ranks of donors. They are more comfortable giving online than their parents are.
    There are two main errors we can make about Boomers:
    – Assume that they are totally and radically different from previous generations in every possible way and thus change everything we do.
    – Ignore them and not change at all as they enter our world.
    Either one of those will kill your fundraising.

  4. Ed, I mostly agree with you here. We’re finding Boomers aren’t radically different from previous generations. But they are different in some ways we can’t ignore.
    Most of the Boomer-friendly tactics you describe do actually work better than the old way. (It’s worth noting that those things also work better with older donors.) But not your last one.
    Here’s what I’m seeing in fundraising:
    – More transparent: YES, it improves response and retention.
    – More choice, YES, it works better, increasing both average gift and response rate.
    – More feedback on the impact of their giving: YES, it often dramatically improves donor retention rates.
    – Less emotion, more intellectual arguments: NO, NO, NO! That fails every single time, and with every audience.
    I realize some are saying less-emotional fundraising is the way of the future, and often making a generational case. But they are wrong.
    We’re seeing that as Boomers age, they are responding to the mail, much as their parents did. But industry-wide, response rates are trending down, while online giving grows. That is largely driven by the movement of Boomers into the ranks of donors. They are more comfortable giving online than their parents are.
    There are two main errors we can make about Boomers:
    – Assume that they are totally and radically different from previous generations in every possible way and thus change everything we do.
    – Ignore them and not change at all as they enter our world.
    Either one of those will kill your fundraising.

  5. Thanks Jeff – I agree with most of that; particulalrly the emotion thing.
    But my feeling is that declining response to DM is as much about increasing charity competition than it is about baby boomers not liking mail.
    I think boomers still love mail.
    The so-called rise in online giving is more due to donors finding donating online easier than writing a cheque – (in my experience, most online donations are still driven by traditional media), than by any huge growth or success in online fundraising.

  6. Thanks Jeff – I agree with most of that; particulalrly the emotion thing.
    But my feeling is that declining response to DM is as much about increasing charity competition than it is about baby boomers not liking mail.
    I think boomers still love mail.
    The so-called rise in online giving is more due to donors finding donating online easier than writing a cheque – (in my experience, most online donations are still driven by traditional media), than by any huge growth or success in online fundraising.

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog