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How to Reach Baby Boomers: Insights From Recent Research

Stelter Client Strategist Kit Lancaster joins us for today’s blog. In her role at Stelter, Kit partners with our nonprofits across the country to create fundraising campaigns that help them connect with and inspire their legacy donors.

I’m technically a millennial, but as a planned giving marketer, baby boomers are my people.

Born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boomer generation was born after World War II. Now ages 59-77, most boomers are in or reaching retirement.

Every day about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. That’s a lot of retirement cakes. And, because people make estate planning decisions when they have changes in health, wealth and family status, it’s a lot of people revisiting their estate plans.

Importantly, the baby boomer generation is also driving the Great Wealth Transfer—along with its $6.3 trillion planned giving opportunity.

So, what’s the best way to reach this important demographic? Let’s look at some recent research to find out.

Direct Mail: Most Likely to Influence Gifts

A 2023 study by Giving USA reported that 52% of boomer-age donors say direct mail is somewhat likely or very likely to influence them to give.

While younger generations prefer to respond to a direct mail appeal by giving online, boomers still prefer to respond with a gift by mail (41%, versus 37% who prefer online). The study revealed this preference is declining, though—boomers’ preference for responding by mail is down from 49% in 2016.

The same study also looked at which generations would welcome frequent direct mail. Interestingly, the younger the donor, the more open they are to receiving a direct mail letter at least monthly—only 20% of boomers (compared with 64% of millennials) wanted monthly mail.

Similarly, a Generational Giving Survey by Qgiv revealed that boomers prefer a quarterly frequency for updates from nonprofits they support and that they prefer to receive those updates via direct mail.

Digital Channels: Gaining Momentum

While baby boomers still report that direct mail is more likely to motivate a gift than email, they’re also engaging more online—and spending more time on their phones.

The Giving USA study found that 87% of boomer-age donors use a smartphone (up 17 percentage points from 2016), compared to 52% who use a desktop computer. 27% of boomers reported using their smartphone or tablet to give through a charity website (an increase of 12 percentage points).

At Stelter, around 43% of traffic to our clients’ planned giving websites comes from mobile devices (phones or tablets).

Making it Easy

What’s a smart marketer to do with all this data? Here at Stelter, we love making things easy for you, so we have some quick ideas for applying these findings to your marketing.

Do This, Not That

DO keep sending direct mail. Direct mail continues to be the most powerful marketing channel to reach your planned giving prospects.

DO review your emails and website. Make sure they are user-friendly and mobile-optimized.

DO watch for increased online engagement in response to direct mail campaigns. Evaluate how easy it is for your website visitors to find what they’re looking for, and consider using a QR code to make online access easier.

DON’T rely on a single marketing channel. Use a combination of channels to maximize your outreach. 

DON’T overwhelm boomers by communicating too frequently. Be smart about audience selection to target the right audience with the right message.

DON’T assume that all baby boomers have the same preferences or behavior. Use data and analytics to understand your audience and personalize your marketing accordingly.

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