Millennials—Do We Need ‘Em?

My husband owns a hearing aid store.  Whenever anyone asks what he does, they all say, “That’s a great business to be in! There are so many Baby Boomers getting older who are going to need hearing aids!”

Whenever anyone asks ME what I do, everyone shakes their head.  “Wow, I’m really sorry,” they all say. “It must be hard with all the older people dying off.”

Why don’t people think fundraisers can take advantage of this new crop of “old people” – the Baby Boomers?

We can…but it’s not easy. 

1.      Baby Boomers are, in general, less philanthropic than the older generations. We need to make sure we are targeting the most likely donors based on other philanthropic, transactional and consumer behavior. We also must ensure that the messaging is reflecting their values and motivations (which are decidedly different than older generations). The hearing aid business is doing well because people want to hear better and they go to the hearing aid store to find a solution to their problem—not yours.

2.      We must be working in a blended channel environment because Baby Boomers are all at different comfort levels within each channel. And, if they are comfortable in the digital space, they move between channels to consume information and make purchases. Baby Boomers are not defined by channel.

3.      The competition is fierce. Potential donors can now choose from over 1.6 million nonprofits—over 15,000 organizations participated in Giving Tuesday in 2014! And, while the number of nonprofits has exploded exponentially, the ability to enter the direct response fundraising arena has become easier than ever. Sure, direct mail has become more expensive, but I can call any local printer, lettershop or even designer and they will have the resources (or partners) to get my direct mail piece into potential donors’ hands.  (Now, it may not be effective, but it’s available.)

4.      They’re not getting any younger.  This is the last year a Baby Boomer will turn 50 (loosely defined as when a person enters their prime philanthropic years). So, the largest group of available donors are now all 50+ and the GenX’ers aren’t going to fill the pipeline (in terms of sheer volume of bodies).

So what do we do? Now, I’m the first person to roll my eyes when someone says they need to acquire Millennials (which is not uncommon—apparently, I rolled my eyes so much in 2nd grade that a substitute teacher sent a note home suggesting I might have Epilepsy).

I roll my eyes because it’s not about generations. It’s about defining who is attracted to your cause, finding the right offer to entice them to join and the right channel to reach them.

And once you’ve done that, let the fun begin! Because getting them interested in your cause is only the first step.  Keeping them interested—and getting them to give as much as they can to your organization—is really where an organization can separate itself from its competitors. No matter how old—or young—the donor is.