Posted December 1st, 2013

Generational Giving Revisited

Earlier this year a new study, “The Next Generation of American Giving,” provided an update to information originally gathered in 2010 about the charitable habits of multiple generations of donors: Generation Y (born 1981-1995), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Matures (born 1945 or earlier). Commissioned by Blackbaud, conducted by Edge Research and authored by Sea Change Strategies, the study surveyed Americans in May 2013 about charitable giving conducted over the previous 12 months.

Which generation is the most generous?

In a key finding, the study reported that Boomers gave the largest share of charitable contributions overall, accounting for 43 percent of all gifts from individuals. This is not surprising considering the size of the Boomer generation and the fact that most Boomers are currently in their peak earning years. Additionally, of the estimated 71 million Boomers, roughly 51 million (72 percent) reported making a charitable gift within the last year.

Perhaps more unexpected is the charitable giving behavior of the Matures, born before 1945. Although there are only roughly half as many Matures as Boomers, Matures accounted for 26 percent of all individual giving—more than Generations X or Y by a large margin. In fact, on a per capita basis the Matures are by far the most generous group. Almost 90 percent of people in this generation contribute to charity, and they support more charities and give more generously than any of the other generational groups.

Generally speaking, there appears to be a positive correlation between age and giving across generational lines. Both the number of charities supported and the dollars given per capita steadily increase with age.

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Communication preferences

The study also reported distinct differences in the giving and communication preferences of the various generations. Fundraisers should recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach across different demographics will not be effective. As a result, it will become increasingly important to develop communication and fundraising strategies and tactics to accommodate varying generational preferences.

For instance, the study revealed that Matures are up to five times as likely as younger generations to make a gift in response to a print communication. Conversely, those in Generations X and Y are more likely to respond to online appeals through social media.

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