Ignore Us Boomers At Your Own Peril

In Marketing & Ministry by Kn Moy

We are a generation that is not accustomed to being ignored.

To our way of thinking, the world has always revolved around us. And, we don’t expect it to stop just because we’re no longer young. (We are still young at heart.) In fact, we Baby Boomers expect more attention because we feel like we’ve earned it.

And yet, our much younger counterparts seem to be getting all the attention.

For example, last year the national media made a big deal about Millennials becoming the largest generation now in the workplace. They said nothing about the fact that Baby Boomers still own or run the majority of the businesses and non-profits in the nation.

According to Nielsen, today less than 5% of all advertising and marketing dollars targets us Baby Boomers. We Boomers are getting lost in the shuffle with the marketplace’s relentless focus on Millennials.

In 2015, marketers reportedly spent 500% more on advertising targeted at Millennials than all other age groups combined. Despite the fact that a recent study by the University of Michigan showed that marketing campaigns targeting Boomers were twice as likely to be more successful than those targeting Millennials.

We Boomers are a marketing tidal wave — at 80 million strong — that has yet to crest. We were the largest generation in American history before our children, the Millennials, came along. Unlike the elderly generations — the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation — that are now dying off at the rate of 15,000 a day, we won’t get to that time of life for another decade or two. We are poised to become half of the U.S. adult population by the end of 2017.

Today, we are the nation’s biggest moneymakers. We control 80% of all financial wealth in America and 76% of all disposable income. We account for $46 trillion in wealth and stand to inherit $15 trillion in the next 2 decades. Far more of us earn over a $100,000 annually than any other generational cohort. In fact, just over 10% of households in our demographic segment earn that or more every year. Our children, the Millennials, earn a whopping 20% less than we did when we were just starting out, despite being better educated. In fact, the median college-educated Millennial, burdened with an average student debt of $37,173, is only earning slightly more than a Baby Boomer without a degree did in 1989.

We are the nation’s biggest spenders. We spend 78% of all dollars spent online today, and dominate 119 of the top 123 Consumer Packaged Goods categories (a staggering 97%). We spend 80% of all dollars spent on travel and 80% of all dollars spent on dining out, despite the fact that Millennials actually dine out much more than we do — but they dine out at places like McDonalds! We buy more Apple computers than any other generation, and account for just under half of all customers paying for wireless service. Maybe that’s because some of us are paying for our Millennial children’s mobile phone bills?

Having come of age during the Consumer Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, we Boomers are a tsunami of consumption.

But we are also a tsunami of philanthropy.

Today, we are the nation’s biggest givers of time, talent and money. No generation, past or present, volunteers at the rate we do. And no generation comes even close to giving as much money to charity as we do. Today, we are giving to philanthropy just under half of all dollars given by individuals. That’s because Boomer households today are 1/3 more generous than elderly donor households when they were our age.

Millennial donors — that many charities see as the “gold rush in philanthropy” — are giving just 11% of all dollars given by individuals to charity, despite the fact they are the largest generation in U.S. history.

We understand that there is a bias that assumes that the older we get, the less valuable we become. That was true for previous generations. Not true for us.

Today, Boomers control a dominant share of all net household wealth in the nation — some 50%. (Remember, one of the most important indicators of charitable giving behavior is owning real estate.) In 2030, we Boomers will still control 45% of all net household wealth, according to Deloitte.

Millennials today, by contrast, control only 4% of net household wealth. In 2030, they are projected to control just 16% of all net household wealth, despite the fact they are the largest U.S. generation. By the way, Millennials, now the largest generation in the workplace, also make up 40% of the unemployed in our nation today

Clearly, we Boomers have the greatest economic clout of any generation today. We’re making, spending and giving the most — by far.

To ignore us is financial suicide. We are the biggest opportunity for financial growth for non-profits over the next 2 decades.

The good news is that we Boomers are not the needle in the haystack. We are the haystack. We’re easy to identify as a mass market, and easy to target with mass messaging. (Now, that does not mean “1 size fits all.”)

The bad news is that we Boomers grew up rejecting the status quo of our parents at every life stage. We always did things differently than our parents, reinventing everything we touched. That’s why we’re called Generation Transformation.

All this means that what worked in the last century for the elderly generations of donors isn’t working as well for Boomers today. How you engage us will need to be different in order for your message to continue to be as relevant as before. Very few of us come home from a day at work or play and ask our spouse, “What came in the mail?”

We already deserve the MVD Award — Most Valuable Donors — for giving as much as we currently do to help make the world a better place. But the time has come to keep searching for the insights that will keep inspiring and engaging us — so that we become the most valuable generation in the history of fundraising.

We Boomers are the “me” generation. No group of Americans before us has grown up with such a profound obsession to “do it our way.” We have always celebrated our individuality — the “me” that has always given meaning to our lives. So we insist on more personalization and customization. We expect better and more from the brands we engage with. We insist on a better overall donor experience. And, we expect you to always answer the central question in our lives, “What’s in it for me?”

And, to stop ignoring us.