Nonprofits and Boomers: Are We Missing the Boat?

Click to read Carole Fleck’s article for AARP, “Boomers Most Generous at Charitable Giving.”

One of my primary focus areas has been on 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 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.”

I have likened retail marketing to nonprofit marketing on several occasions. There are many lessons to be learned by nonprofits from the for-profit sector. The American Marketing Association describes marketing as follows:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

More time should be spent by the nonprofit sector on cultivating, educating – and marketing to – Baby Boomers and older generations. This makes 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 clicking on this link 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” (January 25, 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.”

Keep the above in mind as you set your sites on Boomers. Your entire nonprofit organization could be positively – or negatively impacted – if you do not.

On a personal note:

I began going “gray” in my mid-30s. For some 25 years, I dyed my hair to cover it up. But in 2018, I decided to own my gray hair. Now, growing it out is a work in progress, but I was pleased to see an article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Hottest Hair Color of the Moment is … Gray” (January 17, 2019). Perhaps this signals Boomers are being seen as not so “uncool” after all!

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