Survey Says! Boomers Dominate Charitable Giving


There is a truism when it comes to charitable giving in this country that we are, by and large, a generous people, with most Americans giving some monies to charities and nonprofit organizations over the course of the year.

But what about bragging rights across the generations? Who is the most generous? Well, let’s find out.

In our most recent study, the Next Generation of American Giving, we looked at the charitable habits of donors across four generations – Matures (age 68+), Baby Boomers (age 49-67), Generation X (age 33-48), and Generation Y (age 18-32).

Fact #1 — Boomers rule. By virtue of being far more populous than other generations when it comes to charitable giving, boomers dominate the amount donated to charities as well. A whopping 43 percent of all dollars donated to charity in this country come from Boomers. And the truth is, this is a trend likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Matures also pull their weight when it comes to charitable giving, with approximately 88 percent of this generation’s population giving to charity. Combined, Matures and Boomers account for nearly 70 percent (69 percent, to be exact) of all dollars donated to charity. Hint: It’s not all about the young whippersnappers.

Now, that’s not to write off the younger generations altogether. They still account for 31 percent of all dollars donated and will continue to grow in prominence and stature over time, but this is the time of the Boomer. In short, the odds are strong that for the vast majority of causes, a charity’s next donor will be older than 50.

So, how do Boomers give and to whom do they give and why? Well, that’s a large question (or series of questions), but a little digging might just give some answers.

Boomers give more online (42 percent) than through direct mail (40 percent). Wait. What? Boomers are actually a bit ahead of Generation X (40 percent) and just slightly behind Generation Y (47 percent) when it comes to online giving. This certainly doesn’t mean direct mail is going away, but this observation might be that either Boomers use the online donation form after they read the direct mail from your organization or that as predicted, online is continuing its strong move from simply being a supplemental giving channel to being a dominant giving channel.

Moreover, think local…act locally, in the case of Boomers. Boomers favor places of worship (38 percent) and local social service organizations (36 percent) over all other types of charities, with children’s charities (22 percent) coming in a distant third. Trade unions (0 percent) and election campaigns (2 percent) get the big thumbs down from Boomers.

So, what motivates a Boomer to give? Data point to an emotional appeal from a charity coupled with a strong and positive reputation play a significant role in the type of charity a Boomer will likely support. Interestingly, the younger generations appear to be far more interested in accountability and transparency, with a full understanding of how a donation is making a difference than the older generations (60 percent of Generation X and Y feel this way, but only 37 percent of Boomers say this is important).

There are a lot more goodies and insights in the full report at that provide further insights around different engagement channels, the role of direct mail and a number of other topics. Stop on by.

Dennis McCarthy

Dennis McCarthy

The preceding is a guest post by Dennis McCarthy, vice president of strategy, Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud Inc. Dennis has been serving nonprofits for more than 30 years in the design and implementation of integrated marketing solutions; and building and managing technology solutions for some of America’s largest and most complex nonprofit organizations. At Convio, Dennis has managed the Strategic Services Practice, comprised of consultants in Business Analytics, Design & Information Architecture, Deployment Services and Agency Services.

Filed under: Charitable Giving


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August 22, 2013

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