The future is here.
Between 2017 and 2030, an estimated $1.5 to $6 trillion in charitable gifts will be designated to nonprofits in the U.S. In other words, retiree support will account for half of all giving by 2025.
While there’s certainly a greater societal sensitivity to the vital work of nonprofits—and many who support that work across all generations—this future outpouring springs mainly from two groups of folks ready to put their nest-egg dollars where their hearts are. They are your grandparents, parents, neighbors, community friends. They are the silent generation, or matures, and baby boomers.
Do you know who they are, what they value and the “why” behind their collective philanthropic outlook? Based mainly on the new NMI Healthy Aging Database Study, sponsored in part by The Stelter Company, here’s a broad overview to jog your thinking from their perspective.
Matures or the Silent Generation (1929–1945)
- Age 72 or older, mostly retired
- About 29 million (as of 2014) or 5% of the U.S. population
- Belief in top-down leadership
- Value hard work, respect for authority
- Grew up with big charity; trust nonprofits
Remember: They were raised during the tough, uncertain economic times of the Great Depression and had two major world wars stacked on either side of their childhood. They grew up alongside America’s rise from the rubble of World War II and entered into the country’s economic prosperity as workers a decade later.
As young adults during the McCarthy Era, many in this generation felt it was too dangerous to speak out. Time magazine coined the term “Silent Generation” in 1951 and the term has remained ever since.
Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
- Age 53 or older
- Late boomers (1956–1964) in prime earning years but looking ahead to retirement
- 4 million or 39% of the U.S. population
- Belief in/grew up challenging status quo
- Value optimism, teamwork, strong work ethic, personal gratification, and accomplishment
- Want to see where their dollars go when donating, not as trusting as matures
Remember: Living in good times, baby boomers were the recipients of the 1950’s economic and cultural boom, often reaping the benefits of abundant levels of food, clothing, housing and “toys.” Consumerism grew as did their desires for success; and they were willing to work hard to achieve. Socially, they challenged or sought to redefine traditional values.
After World War II, from 1945 to 1961, more than 65 million children were born in the U.S. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of “baby boomer” is from a 1970 article in The Washington Post.
Differences in gifting priorities certainly exist between the two generations, but one significant commonality speaks volumes about their shared philanthropic leanings. Ninety percent of both generations say they donated money to a nonprofit between August 2016 and August 2017.
Tie that to the fact that boomers currently control 80 percent of the financial wealth in the U.S. and comprise 50 percent—half!—of all individual philanthropic giving. They can give, and they will. The question is: Will they chose to support your mission—or someone else’s?
Understanding how they give yields greater connection
Obviously, both generations attach a similar importance to philanthropic giving, and they also volunteer for the nonprofits they support at the same rate. Interestingly, to get onboard with a charity before ever making a gift, one-third of both matures and baby boomers conduct online research on their charities of choice beforehand.
Realizing there are differences enables you to hone your approach
- Boomers are more likely than matures to leave a gift to healthcare, human services and medical research nonprofits.
- They also prefer to sit closer to the driver’s seat than matures. Boomers are more than 10 times more likely to make a restricted gift to healthcare and human services organizations, for example. They want to engage in deeper ways as well, like volunteering or using their career skills to help fill a need.
HOW TO USE YOUR GIVING TOOLS TO SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE
- Your planned giving website becomes a donor experience. Draw them into your mission; make it so compelling that they can’t pull away. Emotions prevail over financial reasons for giving by a factor of 5 to 1.
- Your giving opportunities provide financial peace of mind. Although they’ve planned and invested wisely, financial concerns plague boomers especially. While a third of matures are very satisfied with their savings and investments, fewer than 1 in 5 boomers say the same.
- Your stories trigger an emotional bond. It creates an undeniably strong, almost one-on-one connection between donors and the people you serve. Bring these people together, at every donor-outreach touchpoint, including websites, brochures and live events, like a donor thank you luncheon.
- Your personalization shows that you pay attention to detail. Locality is key. How does the story relate to the people you’re talking to? Insert personalization whenever possible. In letters, it could be the salutation, “Hi, Jim! Hope this note finds you well.” or local statistics on the community immunization rate.
There’s more where this came from. Check out a recent presentation by Stelter’s Data Insights Manager Cheryl Sturm and me on “Matures to Boomers: What Planned Giving Professionals Need to Know”. You’ll gain deeper insight into this group’s state of philanthropy and giving preferences like:
- What types of gifts are each group most interested in?
- Estate planning: Who’s got what?
- How do honor and tribute gifts fit into the picture?