In 2011 the oldest members of the Baby Boomer generation began to turn 65.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust, over the next couple of decades 79 million baby boomers will turn 65 at the rate of approximately 10,000 per day.
It isn't the end of their importance to philanthropy, but really just the beginning. Here are six things your organization should consider in order to capture the wealth potential, the volunteer potential, and the sheer dynamism of this generation.
- Are aging Boomers optimistic about the future or gloomy? AARP found in a survey that they are optimistic as they turn 65. The Pew Research Center, on the other hand concludes that Baby Boomers are glum and pessimistic. So much for surveys! But, social science has found that people generally become happier as they age. Take advantage of that age advantage. Show the glum that they can make the world a better place; help the happier express their optimism through supporting a cause.
- Don't think that Baby Boomers are all alike. They are spread along a 19 year span. Younger Boomers are substantially different than older ones. But one thing you can count on: those crossing the 65 year threshold right now went through a cultural earthquake. They are not frightened by change and are, perhaps, more adaptable than most other generations. They've seen enough change to fill a history book. Don't tiptoe around them. Give them the information they need, tell them your opinion, ask them to help.
- Baby Boomers, as they age, are wiser and more generous. They will not be fooled by flash and noise. Take your time, give them the facts, show how they can make a difference. The Baby Boomers now turning 65 represent what Jeff Brooks calls the "mother lode" of fundraising. People simply become more generous as they age.
- Baby Boomers can't see as well as they used to. When did you last look at your website through an aging Boomer's eyes? Is the type large enough? Is there enough white space? Is it time to let go of the black background with white (or even worse colors) type? Take a page from marketers of products that serve older consumers and think seriously about readability both on the web and for your printed material.
- Baby Boomers do not want to be considered "old." Readjust your attitude about aging. Read up on the studies showing that older people always think "old" is about 10-15 years older than their age. Learn to see grey as beautiful and wrinkles as distinguishing. Don't make fun of older people.
- Look for Baby Boomers on social media. People over 50 represent the fastest growing segment on social networks such as Facebook. They have mobile phones, iPads, and read their books on Kindles. Go ahead, ask your mother and grandmother which electronic device they want for their next birthday. Start moving away from direct mail to integrated campaigns that make full use of social media.