How to Raise Money from Baby Boomers

April 04, 2014 - by Lesley Hostetter

I recently read a stat that 70% of US disposable income is controlled by Baby Boomers. Taken together with the stat from Blackbaud’s “Next Generation of American Giving” report that Boomers contribute 43% of all charitable giving, one thing is clear:

Baby boomers should be at the top of every non-profit professional’s mind. 
But how do we reach them, and what’s the best offer? How do they compare to the older generation of people who are currently giving?  And can we really just lump 70 million people into one segment?
If you think too hard about this, it can seem daunting. But, we’re here to tell you that fundraising from Baby Boomers should not be that hard!
There are two questions to consider:  
1) What’s the best way to reach Boomers?  
2) What’s the most effective message?
When you think about how Baby Boomers live their everyday lives, answering question #1 seems difficult. Consider these two examples:
Boomer #1 pays all his bills online … he is online all the time, but he never emails or calls his kids – he texts them. He’s super active on Facebook and loves “liking” his friends’ posts. While he has Netflix, he also regularly checks out DVDs from the library. He loves a good discount and eagerly renews his AARP membership each year – by mail. Speaking of which, he gets a ton of mail, including non-profit mail, and when he donates, it’s usually with a check.
Boomer #2 is a little younger. She emails all the time and has just started texting (she loves emoticons!). But, she hates social media and definitely does not “share” anything – she is skeptical of getting hacked or having her identity stolen.  She loves to shop online and goes out of her way to rack up rewards points and miles. This Boomer contributes to charity, but is inconsistent in how she gives. Sometimes it’s a check in the mail, but usually she just hops online.
These examples show that Boomers are increasingly going online to interact, and to conduct transactions. Yet, it’s also clear that other channels are influential and should not be ignored.   The Blackbaud report I referred to above echoes this, stating that 42% of Boomers give online and 40% give through the mail.
What does this mean for the average non-profit?  
  • Conduct integrated campaigns across channels, and make online giving as easy and obvious as possible.  More people are migrating online – and you should be, too.
  • Don’t stop direct mail efforts, but do conduct online matchbacks to see who went online to give after the mail was received.
  • Throw the phone into the mix now and then.  While telemarketing is changing with the advent of cell phones and texting, there is still value in speaking with another human being – especially when making a “hard” sell or communicating urgency.
  • Don’t get caught up in looking at income by channel.  Do look at revenue this way, but understand that online revenue may spike after communication in another channel.
Now we’re left with question #2 – what’s the most effective fundraising message for Boomers?
Regardless of their generation, donors are people who are motivated by a wide variety of messages.  So your best bet is to cast a wide net and use a variety of messages throughout the year, such as:
  • Institutional cases for support with “annual fund” or “renewal” messaging
  • Emotional stories with an urgent plea
  • Very targeted asks designated to a particular program
  • Report backs and engagement pieces so donors know they are appreciated
The bottom line is this:  tell your story in the most compelling way and then, for the best results, mix up the channels in which you tell that story.   And, every organization is different, so please, please, please, always analyze results and adapt your strategy based on the findings!


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