Thursday, August 23, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Stuck In Concrete? - ReDo

My blog last Wednesday generated a lot of emails to me but the responses fell into two categories. The first group thought my message was “right on” the money. The second group raised questions about Baby Boomers in their donor file. The below comment was typical of the second group.

“Boomers are a big part of our database of donors.”

I am not saying that it is not possible to have a significant percentage of your donors as Boomers; in fact, there are thousands of organizations in which I know that to be the case. Your organization may be one of those. But for the most part, the organizations I work with have historically raised the majority of their donations through direct mail. And this group of organizations with large direct mail programs tends to have a much lower percentage of Baby Boomers than the Boomer percentage of the population.

The Depression and WWII generational cohorts today make up approximately 12.8% of the population, while the Boomer population equates to 24 ½ % of the population. The Boomers span 18 years from 1946 to 1964. The Boomer cohort spans so many years that demographers actually break the cohort into two subsets: 1946 to 1954 and 1955 to 1964.

The oldest of the Baby Boomers, those born in 1946, famously turned 65 years old last year. So clearly, the Boomers’ oldest subset (born 1946 to 1954) will hit technical retirement age within the next seven years. If they are your supporters, they should already be on your donor file.

From the perspective of a fundraiser, to check the health of your donor file, by this time fully half… and I am being generous… of your donor file should have an average age of 66 and younger. And to have a really healthy donor file, fully two-thirds of your donor file should be age 66 and younger.

How do I calculate that? The Depression and WWII generations make up 12.8% of the population. The Boomers make up 24 ½ % of the population. By now you should have even the youngest Boomers on your donor file as they are 48 years old. 24.5% divided by 12.8% equals a factor of 1.98. The factor of 1.98 is almost 2.0, therefore for a donor file that is representative of the “donating population” (and of course I am completely disregarding Gen X and Millennials who are fully capable of donating) your Boomer donors should be twice the size of your age 67 and older donors.

How does your donor file stack up?

Unfortunately, our experience is that most donor files we analyze show the Boomer and younger cohorts representing only 20 to 30% of the donor base with some even smaller than that.

I don’t have to explain that this is a recipe for a coming catastrophic collapse in donations, and it’s going to happen in the next ten years.

But frankly, virtually all the fundraising leaders I talk to already know this. Most are struggling to make budget this year. Their question is,“What do I do?”

Clearly, historical direct mail fundraisers need a new fundraising plan.

At the upcoming NCDC annual conference in Nashville, TN, we will be introducing our new Transformational Strategic Plan program which offers fundraisers a Roadmap to developing a new growing and sustainable fundraising plan built online. And in October, we will be launching free Webinars that explain the program as well.

Let me know if you would like to receive an invitation to these free Webinars, or talk to me at the NCDC show in Nashville.


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