Fundraising Audience: Generations, Who Gives the Most and Why

Fundraising Audience: Generations, Who Gives the Most and Why

One aspect of successful fundraising is the idea of knowing your audience as intimately as possible. Even better, understanding what segments of your audience tend to give the most to causes like yours. After all, this study done in 2022 by Giving USA found the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals, who gave $319.04 billion, representing 64% of total giving. That’s a lot of contributions floating around, and why understanding generational giving and who best to invest your time and attention to is so important.

After all, each generation, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, has distinct values, preferences, and motivations that influence their charitable behaviors. There are other subtle nuances that are generational and the more you’re aware of how each generation ticks as a whole, the better you’re going to be able to communicate with them directly in an engaging and profitable way.

For example, it may be common sense, but obviously Generation X’ers and Millennials are going to be far more tech savvy than any other generation before them. This is important because the way you communicate with these individuals and the way in which they prefer to support their chosen causes is going to be very different than the ways you’d want to communicate with Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. All of these little details add up to either give you an extremely effective marketing strategy, or being completely ineffectual and lacking the funds to keep your charity going. If you’d like to be in the first group, then read on as we explore who really donates the most, and all the intricacies involved for each generation decisions to give.

Understanding the Differences Between Each Generation

The basics of fundraising will always be connecting with people in a meaningful way so they feel compelled to give to your cause. The problem is many charitable institutions don’t always recognize how to effectively communicate with their supporters, nor what motivates them to make a contribution. And although there are tons of ways you can categorize your supporters in order to market to them more effectively, one key piece of information is all about the generation they grew up in, their distinct values, preferences, and motivations that influence their charitable behaviors.

The Silent Generation (1925-1945)

The silent generation or matures as they’re sometimes referred to are becoming more silent as this age group continues to age. And although as a population number they may not be as prevalent, they still account for 20 percent of all charitable donations. At a tune of $1,235 per person bring their total contributions to $29 billion. Not a small number at all and the second largest number by total funds given.

As people that grew up during the Great Depression and WW2, their approaches to giving are very traditional and can even seem outdated as many still make donations using checks or decide which charities to give to based on direct mailings they receive from these organizations. They may also prefer older charities or foundations to give to, or larger more established nonprofits they have grown up with over the years.

The most interesting facts are that 88% of matures donate and many are considered to be major donors. So while this pool of wealth is disappearing, it is still wise to include them in your overall fundraising activities. Plus they are known for their loyalty to the causes they support; once they find a nonprofit that aligns with their values, they are more likely to remain committed to those organizations long term.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are one of the most philanthropic generations and account for close to half of all charitable contributions made in the United States coming in at $1,212 per person per year, 43% of all donations made each year. This obviously makes them the most profitable generation to market to if your charity aligns with their beliefs.

Remember, these people grew up in the 60’s when social change was at its highest level in American history. Many of these individuals grew up supporting issues like environmental causes, equality and equal rights, and over all world peace. Many are still passionate about these topics and give freely to organizations that support them. Organizations that are concentrated on local initiatives, food distribution and climate change can do well contacting baby boomers.

And like the silent generation above, many baby boomers prefer donating through direct mail, in person live events, or personal connections and interactions, although they are familiar with online giving and will give using their smartphones as well. These people are also more inclined to become volunteers, sit on your board of directors or in some personal way support your cause.

Generation X (1965-1980)

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is characterized as the smallest of all the generation populations other than the silent generation. They are also the first real generation to grow up side by side with technology, making them the first generation that prefers to be communicated with and contacted through online platforms and social media.

As a social class, Gen Xers grew up in the 1980’s and 90’s during many different market crashes, social strife and corporate greed and upheaval. This is the primary reason only an estimated 59% of this small population feels comfortable enough to give and would rather roll up their sleeves and become personally involved in an organization, donating their time rather than with money. They are also much more likely to research your organization and look at reviews and your social media channels to be sure your company is legit.

On the plus side, they are comfortable with both online and offline giving and are comfortable using various digital platforms and supporting crowdfunding campaigns that resonate with their personal values. Email is also a particularly effective medium for prompting donations from this generation and they will most likely prefer to be contacted through voice calls, text messaging, email, and social media posts.

Millennials (1981-1995)

Millennials or Gen Y, born between 1981 and 1996, are the first generation of true digital natives. So it makes sense the way to capture these individuals attention and donations is to be accessible though your own website or platform, and social media channels. And while their giving numbers may not be the largest at an estimated 481 million in total funds given, 84% of this demographic does give to charity and many like to set up recurring donations for their chosen causes, which are mostly environmental or social focused nonprofits and foundations.

Furthermore, Bank of New York Mellon put out a report that states 97% of these people believe that charitable giving should be part of their overall financial wealth makeup. Seeing they are the largest population as far as generations go, that is a lot of possible support that you should not be ignoring.

Marketing to this aging demographic is super important as they older they get, the more disposable income they’ll have to make larger contributions. That means you’re going to need to completely embrace technology and have the ability to offer apps and online funding capabilities like donation forms on your website. Luckily software solutions like PayBee bring any charity up to date with a complete suite of online tools created specifically for the nonprofit sector. You can try our free demo here to see how we can not only provide your charity with a complete online presence, but help you run your daily operations from one easy to use user dashboard as well.

Generation Z (1995-2009)

Generation Z, born from 1995 to 2009, have completely grown up with all things tech and are extremely global conscious and see things as important both on a local scale as well as how everything ties into their lives globally. Gen Z is motivated by social responsibility and is drawn to causes focused on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. They also want to be connected with organizations that are completely transparent and want to see what their donations are going towards.

One interesting statistic is that 10% of this group wants to start their own nonprofit. And although they are too young to really get significant data on their contribution behavior, they are definitely the future of philanthropy and finding ways to make them feel inclusive within your organization now could pay off in the future.

As each generation ages and another takes the helm, nonprofits will continually need to transform with these changes in order to stay competitive. The Silent Generation's loyalty, Baby Boomers' traditional giving, Gen X's pragmatic approach, Millennials' tech-savvy engagement, and Gen Z's emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability all contribute to a diverse and dynamic philanthropic ecosystem in which organizations that can target each generation effectively will have a much better chance of growing their charity short and long term.

Wrapping Up

Successful fundraising hinges on intimately knowing your audience and understanding which segments are most likely to support your cause. A 2022 study by Giving USA found that individuals are the largest source of charitable giving, contributing $319.04 billion, which represents 64% of total giving. This clearly demonstrates the importance of clearly understanding generational giving trends and why it’s so important to market to each segment in ways they prefer.

Each generation, from the Silent Generation to Gen Z, brings distinct values, preferences, and motivations to their charitable behaviors. The Silent Generation, with their traditional approaches and loyalty, still plays a significant role in philanthropy despite their dwindling numbers.

Baby Boomers, the most philanthropic generation, prefer well-established organizations and tend to give both offline and online,. Generation X, known for their pragmatism and tech-savviness, values transparency and often prefers to volunteer or in some way be directly involved in your organization rather than donating cash. Millennials, as digital natives, back causes focused on children’s welfare, societal issues, and organizations working with human rights both on a local and global scale and engage heavily in online giving through social media and crowdfunding. Gen Z, the youngest generation, is driven by social responsibility and will back organizations committed to diversity, inclusion, and sustainability both at home and abroad.

Understanding all of these generational differences can greatly allow your team to tailor their fundraising efforts in a much more effective manner. By leveraging the unique characteristics of each generation, charities can create more meaningful connections with their supporters and ensure a steady stream of donations. Combined with our nonprofit platform solutions that can bring your company online as well as manage your day to day operations, you’ll be able to market to each generation individually while offering ways to legally accept donations that fit all generations. Just try our demo here to see the power we provide many charities right now.


Why do different generations prioritize different causes in their charitable giving?

Different generations prioritize causes based on their life experiences, values, and the societal influences that they grew up with. Each generation saw certain global aspects take place like economic booms, recessions, war and peace. All of these life experiences deeply effect each generations desire for effective change in one way or another.

How do donation trends vary between different age groups?

Older generations like the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers tend to give larger donations as they have accumulated more wealth over time and still prefer more traditional forms of giving like checks and credit cards. Younger generations, although not as wealthy, seem to becoming more philanthropic and look to digital platforms for information and giving opportunities.

What specific strategies are most effective for engaging Millennials in fundraising?

Utilizing social media campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, and peer-to-peer fundraising can all be used to effectively market to this demographic. Highlighting the impact of their donations clearly, creating interactive and engaging content and distributing it through social media channels as well as works well for charities entered on social justice causes.

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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