Baby Boomers Are Foundation Of U.S. Giving

August 8, 2013       Patrick Sullivan      

Nearly nine in 10 of Americans born before 1945 (so-called Matures) give to charities, and they support the greatest number of organizations at an average of 6.2 per person. But Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, contribute about 43 percent of all dollars given in the United States, the highest percentage by far. Those are among the findings of Charleston, SC software firm Blackbaud’s study, “The Next Generation of American Giving.”

The study asked approximately 1,000 people about their giving habits and broke the results into cohorts: Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), Baby Boomers and Matures. It showed that, overall, American charitable giving is dominated by older generations, and that “the primacy of Gen Y in the donor marketplace is decades away,” wrote the authors of the study. “In short, the odds are strong that for the vast majority of causes, your next donor will be over age 50.”

Most Americans give (about 60 percent of Gen X and Y, and 72 percent of Boomers), and most Americans’ giving will stay the same this year as compared to last year. Gen X and Gen Y donors were more likely to report that their overall dollar amount will increase (at 18 percent and 21 percent, respectively), while across the board, about 15 percent of donors reporting decreases in dollar amount. Some 13 percent of Gen Y donors said they’d give to more charities over the next 12 months, compared to 6 percent of Gen X-ers, 2 percent of Booomers and 4 percent of Matures.

The study called multichannel engagement a way of life, and online giving is a huge part of that. More Gen Y, Gen X and Boomer donors have given online (47 percent, 40 percent, 42 percent) than direct mail (10 percent, 22 percent, 40 percent), according to the study. Though more Matures still give through direct mail, more than one-quarter (27 percent) give online.

Overall, only about 17 percent of respondents were part of a monthly giving program. “Monthly donors have higher lifetime values and lower maintenance costs, making them significantly more profitable than one-off direct response donors,” wrote the authors. Boomers, at 21 percent, are the most likely to be enrolled in a monthly program.

In the realm of mobile giving, “giving by text appears to be going nowhere,” wrote the story’s authors. Giving by smartphone or tablet increases as age decreases. Almost two-thirds of Gen Y donors (62 percent) say they would give via mobile device, as would nearly half (47 percent) of Gen X donors. Only 20 percent of Boomers and 11 percent of Matures said the same.

Exactly 80 percent of donors find peer-to-peer fundraising to be a “very” or “somewhat” acceptable method of fundraising. Though fewer than half of all the generational cohorts have done peer-to-peer fundraising (Gen X being the most likely to do so at 46 percent), nearly three in four (74 percent) have given at least once to a friend’s cause in the last year and 16 percent have given three times or more.

The research was funded by Blackbaud but researched and written independently by Edge Research, Sea Change Strategies and hjc New Media. Download the full study at https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/generational-giving-report.