Looking Beyond Checkbooks When It Comes To Giving
The profile of today’s donor is changing. The stereotypical image of an “old lady with her checkbook” is a far cry from who is actually donating, and it is the attitudes of Boomers that are driving these changes in the philanthropy space. This group of 78 million is busy: 52% are still working, and yes, still donating. From volunteering in their local community to donating cash, Boomers are responsible for 70% of all charitable giving in the US (Forbes). In the philanthropy space, that is simply too big to be ignored. For marketers, there are three key Boomer insights to keep in mind when thinking about charitable behavior and its impact on business:
- Boomers are looking for simple ways to donate.
- Boomers are putting the “active” in activism.
- Boomers want their giving to go further.
- Boomers are looking for simple ways to donate
Although Boomers are often stretched thin on time, they are looking to give back in simple and convenient monetary ways. Grocery checkouts are among the top four donation channels for Boomers. In fact, in the last year alone, Safeway raised $53 million through quick monetary donations at the register. Their top charitable initiatives raised funds for breast cancer and prostate cancer assistance, two cancers that affect the broadest cross-section of their consumer base (CBS Broadcasting). The internet is also a key channel for Boomers. According to a Dunham+Company study, the number of Boomers who say they have given online has increased from 48% in 2010 to 57% in 2012. One charity using this channel effectively is the Wounded Warrior Project, who has used Facebook to encourage donors to send a donation and personal thank-you card to a veteran. This connects with Boomers on an emotional level and offers a simple and meaningful way to donate online for those who might not have time to volunteer but still want to make a difference in their community.
Boomers are putting the “active” in activism
Many Boomers are also looking for opportunities to roll up their sleeves and get involved. A third of Boomers say they volunteer on a regular basis, which amounts to 2.9 billion hours of service to communities across the country every year (Volunteering in America). Habitat for Humanity has tapped into Boomers’ willingness to volunteer by segmenting community groups and efforts, such as women working with other women to rebuild a home in their neighborhood or veterans banding together to paint a local school. Although the percentage of overall volunteering among Boomers has declined some in the past year, many charitable organizations are revving up recruitment efforts for “skills-based volunteers” in preparation for Boomer retirement, which enables donors to volunteer in management or professional positions (Forbes). Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a non-profit that provides opportunities for retired professionals to mentor and advise small business owners. This allows them to not only give back but also to use the skills and expertise they have garnered in the workforce to help others grow their business and be successful.
Whether it is mentoring local youth or small business owners, aiding a homeless shelter or supporting a local arts initiative, Boomers look for philanthropic opportunities that connect to their passions and allow them to see their impact firsthand. Oregon’s “Boomers and Babies” cross-generational program engages Boomer volunteers in activities that contribute to children’s readiness for school. Programs and charities such as these continue to harness the power that passionate Boomers can bring to their communities.
Boomers want their giving to go further
Whether Boomers choose to donate their time or money, they want to know two things: where their money is going and the tangible difference they are making. This behavior is part of a larger cultural shift, but Boomers attitudes are a contributing factor to many charities shifting to a more transparent model. As we saw with Salvation Army’s “Layaway Angels” program in 2012 that allowed donors to pay balances on store accounts and make the holidays merrier for needy families, identifying a specific cause and/or person is a greater motivator than blanket, anonymous contributions. The personal connection gives more meaning, more transparency as to where their donations are going, and helps them to feel that their giving is going further and making a real impact.
So, what does this mean for marketers? Whether you represent a brand, a non-profit, or a small, local charity, when it comes to philanthropy, Boomers don’t necessarily behave like the generation that came before them. They want to do more than write a check. They want to get their hands dirty, and they want feedback about the impact of their donation. The cause itself is also only one step in gaining their interest; they are looking beyond that to shared values. Give Boomers simple yet meaningful ways to donate, tap into their passions, and encourage them to connect with others to improve the lives of those in their communities.