Nonprofits and Boomers: Are We Missing the Boat?

One of my professional areas of focus has been securing significant donations from individuals, families, foundations and corporations in support of worthy nonprofit endeavors of all kinds. I have always had an appreciation for donors of all ages.

But over the course of my career, I have noticed the highest percentage of donors with whom I have worked are generally Baby Boomer aged or older. Yet the media, the advertising and fashion industries tend to focus on the young. Middle aged and older individuals are portrayed as less “cool” and are presented less favorably. This has always perplexed me, because when it comes to spending power and charitable giving, the Boomer and older generations are a force to be reckoned with.

Ashley Lutz wrote for Business Insider, “Retailers are alienating the most important customers – and it’s hurting business.” Ashley cites Hilary Stout in The New York Times:

“After all, the millennial generation has less wealth and more debt than other generations did at the same age, thanks to student loans and the lingering effects of the deep recession.”

Ashley also recognizes the findings of Forrester Research, “While addressing older shoppers is often perceived as less sexy, they are a larger segment of the population than those under 35 and have significant disposable income.”

Further, “They are already spending more on shopping than young shoppers.”

More time should be spent by the nonprofit sector on cultivating, educating – and marketing to – Baby Boomers and older generations. This makes such good financial sense.

Baby Boomers and older generations are among the most charitably-inclined of any generation. They are also adopting the use of social media and the Internet at increasing rates. You might enjoy reading one of my original blog articles, “Baby Boomers and Seniors Are Embracing Digital Media.”

Coming of Age is a helpful resource for marketing to Baby Boomers and older generations that I discovered a few years ago. In fact, I would venture to say signing-up for regular email updates from Coming of Age may be one of the most important things you do today, or any day!

Here are a few “Boomer” traits discussed by Coming of Age in, “Our Understanding of the Older Consumer”:

  • Increased individualism
  • Increased demand for facts
  • Increased response to emotional stimuli
  • Less self-oriented, more altruistic … (and more).

And similar to businesses, nonprofits must be careful to ensure there is proper knowledge transfer when Boomer employees leave the workforce. Richard Eisenberg wrote for Forbes, “Boomer Brain Drain: The Big Mistake Employers Are Making” (2019):

“The boomer brain drain is the growing trend of boomer workers retiring and employers failing to have a succession plan, or knowledge transfer plan, in place. When many of these boomers leave, they take with them institutional knowledge and names of key contacts; these can be extremely useful to the workers (usually younger ones) who’ll take over for the retirees.”

I admit to being a Boomer myself. Recently, I have been chagrined by the use of the phrase, “OK boomer.” As Aja Romano writes for Vox, “younger generations feel they can no longer rely on older generations to help solve major and daunting environmental and economic issues” (2019).

Having witnessed first hand the creation of Whole Foods Market, Wheatsville Coop (where I gained an early awareness about the need for grocery bag recycling, for instance, and a knowledge about hundreds of earth-friendly products), Half Price Books and similar innovative and environmentally conscious companies, I find it troubling that my generation lags behind in support for environmental issues. I have to admit this is true to some degree. In fact, I wrote, “Baby Boomers and Older Adults: Go For Startups” on my blog urging older adults and their financial advisors to support younger (and smaller, newer) social good ventures.

All generations have work to do! But nonprofits and the entire business sector must remember that setting one’s sites on Boomers makes good financial sense.

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