CLA Preview: An Open Letter to My Favorite Charity from a Baby Boomer Donor

Dear Fundraising Guy,

I support your nonprofit because of the amazing work you do.

But I’ve been giving to you for a couple of years now. And, honestly, sometimes I wonder why I give . . . because I don’t like the way you treat me. I do appreciate the thank-you notes, whenever you send them. But, mostly, it’s requests for money.

I expect better. Maybe that’s because I’m a Baby Boomer.

We’re America’s largest adult generation — 80 million strong. We’re also the nation’s wealthiest and most influential generation, controlling more than 80 percent of all financial wealth. And we’ll continue to do so for the next two decades.

Today, because we have three quarters of all disposable income in the U.S., we give just under half of all dollars given to charity. About 57 million of us give. And half of us will volunteer in a significant way at some point because we’re the first youthful generation of older Americans.

It’s helpful to understand that we’re not like our parents. We have a completely different way of doing things. We’re the first generation to grow up with television. And since we’ve seen every advertising trick, we’re jaded. So please don’t sell us. We really hate being marketed to!

We have dwindling patience for fundraising approaches developed in the last century, regurgitated to use on us. We insist on intelligent and authentic communication. And please remember, we’re the generation that reinvented technology, culture, politics, the social scene. The vast majority of us have mobile devices and engage daily in social media.

Be real. Be relevant. Be believable.

I’m sorry. That’s the way we’re wired as a generation. We don’t necessarily give to a charity because it’s the right thing to do, or out of a sense of duty. That was our parents.
We give to meet a need, perhaps the greatest need in our lives. We want to do something significant and leave the world a better place, especially for our kids. We’re focused on being transformational. Because we’ve never done anything halfway, we’ll continue to push the limits with the charities we support. Or we won’t support them at all.

Reconsider how often you contact us and why. We’re generous, but can’t give every time you ask. Present us with genuine opportunities that will change lives. When you write, treat us like valued partners. Not cash machines.

Give us emotionally compelling reasons to believe in you — and valid, clear reasons to respond. Be honest and forthright about your circumstances. Everything you do isn’t urgent.
More than anything, we want to know what our gifts accomplish. Send us relevant updates. Keep us engaged. We’ll even give you our sacred mobile numbers to send us updates . . . as long as you don’t assault us with your marketing.

Show us you really care about us. Give us a voice and a stake in what you do. If you want to engage us more effectively, then focus on creating as many meaningful and enriching experiences as you can that “make our hearts sing.”

Do that, and we’ll reward you with our loyalty and our giving of time, talent and treasure.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Baby Boomer Donor

If you’re attending CLA, we invite you to learn more by registering for Kn’s workshop here.