For years, the segment of donors contributing most generously to successful fundraising events have been the moneyed generation, now known as the “matures.” This group ranges in age from the late 60s to the late 80s, with the average being in the early 80s.
While this remains a viable donor group, waning numbers and limited mobility suggest that shifting “matures” to a secondary target for fundraising events might be wise. Redirecting solicitations to emphasize major gifts and planned giving bequests likely will maximize fundraising potential of this lucrative donor group.
Baby Boomers, in their early 50s to late 60s, have now shifted into the best position to become the primary target audience for fundraising events. They are by far the largest segment of the population (34 percent of those over 18). In 2010 they were responsible for 40 percent of all charitable donations*, a number that will only increase over time. To capitalize on this market, nonprofits must implement marketing strategies that deliver appealing messages in media embraced by this generation.
While the “matures” continue to communicate by phone and in written form, Boomers were the first generation to adopt technology. They’re computer savvy and use email and smartphones to stay current in a changing world. While Gen X (early 30s to late 40s) came of age as natives in a society of personal computers and related technology, the Baby Boomers have adapted to their surroundings.
Baby Boomers, however, use technology differently than the younger generations. They are most comfortable with the classic Microsoft Office, surfing the web, basic social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and a few new apps on their latest smart phones. They also continue to use traditional media - reading the actual printed newspaper, hard-cover books and watching TV (on the TV, not on a web browser.) With such a wide age range in the boomer generation, there are many variations, but these preferences are the general trend.
For special events, the format must appeal to Boomers, with more informal galas and cocktail parties becoming emerging trends. Themed events, celebrity chefs and unusual venues attract this audience with a creative hook that is enticing and exciting—leading them to take action.
A Boomer-centric strategy should include a diverse and integrated media mix with not only a compelling message, but an intense frequency. This marketing effort should combine traditional and newer media, including:
- Sponsor request letters
- “Save the date” email blasts
- Event information posted and updated bi-weekly and weekly (as the event nears) on the organization’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages (announce sponsors, program updates, etc.)
- A dedicated event website or a professional and comprehensive presence in the events section of the organization’s Events or Giving sections.
- Easy-to-use online event registration and sponsorship sales
- Clear online information on where and how to make payment by check
- Conventional printed invitation
- General email invitation
- Email emphasizing what the funds raised will be used for
- Email focusing on the honoree or theme of event
- Phone calls to honoree’s contacts and/or traditional donors
- An online journal that posts ads as they are received and links to donor websites
- An digital journal presentation at the event
- A small printed program booklet distributed at the event acknowledging donors
- Press releases and listings in upcoming calendars in local newspapers
- Release of a simple but compelling video message asking for support and participation in the event – may feature honoree, board chair, exec. director, spokesperson who has been helped by the organization, etc. Embed this into pre-event emails and host on event website for maximum effect
- Post-event written and email follow up. Direct viewers back to event website to view photos and make additional donations
Baby Boomers are ready, willing and able to give. They remain a viable target audience for the next 15 to 20 years. Shifting to less traditional events and more digital communications will better engage donors from the largest segment of the population, helping to revive the event fundraising that is so important to the nonprofit community.
*THE NEXT GENERATION OF AMERICAN GIVING: A study on the multichannel preferences and charitable habits of Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Matures. Convio, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies (March 2010)
The preceding is a guest post by Karen Perry-Weinstat, founder of Event Journal, Inc., a full-service marketing company for nonprofit fundraising events founded in 2002. She developed the first digital e-journal system that has replaced most dated paper journals and program books. Event Journal offers nonprofits a combination of its unique digital e-journal, event websites, coordinating marketing materials and full-service support and delivery for fundraising events including dinner galas, golf outings, benefits and more.