First things first: study Boomer donors

The Boomers are here. The Millennials are not here, yet.

Anyone who’s spending more than a cursory thought on Generation Y fundraising is wasting time and money. It’s like ignoring the mound of twenty-dollar bills on the table in front of you to go crawling around on the floor for the penny you thought you saw down there.

Listen to Tom Ahern, who knows what he’s talking about, at Which is your next priority, younger donors or boomers?:

… age matters. It’s not that younger donors are less generous. It’s just that they have so much more to buy: clothes, cars, furnishings, homes, education for their eventual kids. Older donors have been there, done that.

A person aged 65 is far more likely to have two things a young adult won’t have: (1) enough stuff, and (2) a sense that time is running out.

The Boomer fundraising era started last year. That’s when Boomers edged out the older generation as the majority of Americans age 55 and up. (The figures are similar in most Western nations.)

Boomers will be the majority of the donor-age group until 2033, when Generation X will squeeze past them. Boomers will gradually decline in numbers until they are mostly gone around 2050.

The Milliennials, or Generation Y, doesn’t show up in the donor demographic until 2035. That means if you are under 40 now, you’ll start to see the impact of the Millennial Generation on fundraising when you’re old and gray and nearing retirement.

Right now, Millennial fundraising is pretty much science fiction. Theoretically interesting, maybe entertaining to some — but not a practical way to spend your time.

The Boomers are upon us. We haven’t even figured them out yet! That’s where you should put your energy. You should have a weather eye on Generation X, which will first appear on our stage in 2020, and become the majority of the donor age group in 2033.

More on the shifting numbers of the generations at How many people are likely to give — now and in the future.


Comments

8 responses to “First things first: study Boomer donors”

  1. While I totally agree – I would like to add one point. IGNORE the Millenials at your peril, we are a fickle bunch, we still need to be loved, even if we don’t/can’t give. Show up in 2035 and start asking me for money after not communicating with me, cultivating me, and loving me now – Well, I know what MY answer will be…..

  2. While I totally agree – I would like to add one point. IGNORE the Millenials at your peril, we are a fickle bunch, we still need to be loved, even if we don’t/can’t give. Show up in 2035 and start asking me for money after not communicating with me, cultivating me, and loving me now – Well, I know what MY answer will be…..

  3. I have to disagree. My firm recently ran an analysis on giving patterns by age and found information that at least partially contradicts your post. I have to say that the analysis was done on people that were solicited on behalf of a specific non-profit, so it was not truly a random sampling. However, we found that the age group of less than 50 years old were almost twice as likely to make a donation as those over 50.

  4. I have to disagree. My firm recently ran an analysis on giving patterns by age and found information that at least partially contradicts your post. I have to say that the analysis was done on people that were solicited on behalf of a specific non-profit, so it was not truly a random sampling. However, we found that the age group of less than 50 years old were almost twice as likely to make a donation as those over 50.

  5. As a self obsessed boomer I know you’re spot on. We already have 70% of the wealth which is set (through inheritance)to grow to 85% before we start shuffling off this mortel coil! Cultivate us now or it’ll be too late.
    See the Association of Grumpy Old Fundraisers for more about the boomers.

  6. As a self obsessed boomer I know you’re spot on. We already have 70% of the wealth which is set (through inheritance)to grow to 85% before we start shuffling off this mortel coil! Cultivate us now or it’ll be too late.
    See the Association of Grumpy Old Fundraisers for more about the boomers.

  7. I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. I’m just not sure about your conclusions. One question: Would you say this advice applies to fundraising for higher-ed institutions? My concern is that fundraisers who wait until alumni reach their peak earning/retirement years to consider engaging them philanthropically are headed for a big load of disappointment. The evidence I’ve seen indicates that it is the youngest alumni who convert, and that the longer an alum goes post-graduation without giving, the less and less likely they’ll ever give. Older donors give more — of course — but older donors also tend to have a long history of giving, starting with $10 to the Annual Fund when they were in their 20s. Have a look at this recent study (link below). Admittedly it’s based on data from only three schools, so it’s not proof of my point. But I think it’s very interesting. Thank you – I’m a frequent reader and enjoy your posts.
    http://cooldata.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/the-tough-job-of-bringing-in-new-alumni-donors/

  8. I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. I’m just not sure about your conclusions. One question: Would you say this advice applies to fundraising for higher-ed institutions? My concern is that fundraisers who wait until alumni reach their peak earning/retirement years to consider engaging them philanthropically are headed for a big load of disappointment. The evidence I’ve seen indicates that it is the youngest alumni who convert, and that the longer an alum goes post-graduation without giving, the less and less likely they’ll ever give. Older donors give more — of course — but older donors also tend to have a long history of giving, starting with $10 to the Annual Fund when they were in their 20s. Have a look at this recent study (link below). Admittedly it’s based on data from only three schools, so it’s not proof of my point. But I think it’s very interesting. Thank you – I’m a frequent reader and enjoy your posts.
    http://cooldata.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/the-tough-job-of-bringing-in-new-alumni-donors/

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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