In Generational Giving, Do Not Discount the Boomers

Ok, I admit it.  I’m guilty.

If you’re like me, you’re caught up in all of the hype concerning how we as fundraisers try to link our organizations more closely to the Gen X and Gen Y folks. I enjoy technology and new “toys,” so I’m intrigued with all the ways technology is enhancing charitable giving – and using technology seems to be the way Gen X and Gen Y folks are giving.

However, according to a recent report on generational giving, you may be focusing in the wrong place for the real dollars. The Next Generation of American Giving: The Charitable Habits of Generations Y, X, Baby Boomers and Matures gives us some food for thought about who’s actually giving those dollars.

The report shows that the boomer generation now contributes 43% of all giving.

Considering there are four “slices” of the generational giving pie (Matures, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y), that means you need to pay more attention to me and my cohort who are 49 or older!

And there are over 50 million of us!

Even as late as yesterday, I was talking with a client who is ready to go totally tech in all fundraising efforts to meet the needs of the Gen X’s and Gen Y’s in his organization: online giving, iPads, giving kiosks, QR codes, the works!

Some of that’s a good thing, but this Blackbaud report reminds us that we need to put some more focus on what those of us in middle aged years might want.

Yes, we’re children of the 60’s and that makes us a little more skeptical of organizations. Some of us have taken a long time to get our professional and financial lives in order, so we’re coming to the giving game a bit late. We’re moving (some of us faster than others) into the ease of using technology, but the good news is that our giving is on the increase.

I continue to refer to an article on Boomer giving that Eric Nagourney penned in the New York Times earlier this year.

Nagourney quoted consultant Robert F. Sharpe, Jr. as saying, “Of course Baby Boomers are going to give more money than any other generation.” That’s a given since Boomers make up the largest generation.

Sharpe, a friend of our firm and also a consultant, goes on to discuss that while they’re giving more as a generation, what isn’t known is whether or not Boomers are giving more individually.

Even though I’m going off on this Boomer tangent, remember a previous blog post of mine, in which I said basically there is no  “silver bullet” for any of our work…that’s why we call it “work!”


Just because I’m highlighting my Boomer generation today and saying there may be untapped potential there, that doesn’t mean you should put all of your eggs in that basket either!

We still need to keep doing our work on targeting the other generations of our constituents.

What you should do is delve deeper into your database of constituents, get to know the diverse breakout of your demographic mix, and research in as many ways as possible to see where you need to put your focus and how you need to communicate with each segment.

Building on The Next Generation of American Giving report, Blackbaud has put together a great tool entitled “Generational Fundraising Tips” to at least get us thinking about where we should focus our energies.

This report has me thinking in some different ways about who’s actually giving what – and I hope you’ll think a little more analytically about that in your work!

It will help me assuage my guilt!