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Ahern 14.31 - Tom's big prediction for 2015
Tom Ahern

January, 2015

Welcome to the object of your affections, for the rest of your fundraising career...
Top 2015 prediction? Baby boomers bulldoze all-time fundraising record
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Only stupid charities still say, "We need younger donors."
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The biggest giving generation in history is now amongst us.

 

Baby boomers (humans born between 1946 and 1964) have reached late middle age and the great unknown of "retirement."

 

The oldest are 68. The youngest are 50; they'll only reach the "retirement-ripe" age of 65 in 2029 or so. You won't see the last of them in bulk until 2064 or so.  

 

By the way, then will not be the same as now.

 

Famous futurologist and artificial intelligence expert, Ray Kurzweil, has credibly predicted (because he's been right so often before) that by 2029 personal computers will be smarter than humans.1

 

1. Just in the nick of time? Maybe by 2029 we can "toss the bums out" instead by voting for personal computers. "Vote for me ... I'll set you free ... because I am simply better for you and yours than some idiot. Apple iEverything 16.7 for Congress. My firmware approves this message." 

 

What symphony manager hasn't swept eyes across an audience and observed, "It's not just gray ... it's mostly white hair out there. By Zeus' beard, my board chair was right: we DO need younger donors." 

 

Wrong conclusion. Seems obvious. But it's wrong. 

 

Charitable giving is just a small piece of household economics.

 

People "age into" giving around age 55. Americans. Australians. Canadians. Brits.

 

Most aren't ready to contribute much in their younger years (tech millionaires excepted). Too many other demands compete for an income: house, food, clothing, family, education, status, privilege. Maslow's whole hierarchy of needs, basically.  

 

Furthermore: these are mandatory demands on income. LOUD demands. We have to eat. And if we have to eat, we have to have dessert. 

 

Charity is always optional. Charity comes last, after ice cream cones; if at all.2

 

2. That's why religion does so well with giving, says Marc Pitman, compared to other categories of charity such as the environment or the arts. In church, they pass the plate once a week in public. And out in public, people feel obliged to give. In the privacy of their homes, they don't. 

 

Americans age into charitable giving as a common activity around 55. They continue giving until there's an interruption like illness or death or destitution.

 

Another stupid thing in 2015 (as in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and forever): A lousy (e.g. inane) bequest marketing program

The number of boomers now entering or in their prime giving years is going to be massive and unprecedented. Baby boomers, by the way, control over 80 percent of personal financial assets in the U.S.

 

Therefore, fellow logic freaks, inexorably, baby boomers will assume ... with superhuman strength and grace ... their predestined place as the greatest philanthropic generation ever born.

 

Crazy theory #1: The planet rescues itself

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that we don't collectively turn our home planet into something uninhabitable; and, therefore, your charity's mission remains relevant 100 years from now ...

 

... as Boys & Girls Clubs of America (founded 1860 by three women in Hartford, CT) remains; as Girl Scouts (founded 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, GA) remains; as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (chartered 1861) remains; as the Sierra Club founded in 1892 by John Muir) remains ...

 

Will your organization still be scrambling for fundraising dollars each and every year?

 

Or are you going to do something about the problem now, as your fundraising predecessors likely did not?

 

Is there a single charity in America that can boast about its bequest marketing program? Yes: I've met a few. I haven't met dozens, though. 

 

Charities have one amazing thing to sell: A sense of purpose

 

A massive generation of potential donors stands before you ... looking for meaning. Baby boomers. "Retired." I.e., lost. Wanting to find something soon.

I hope to quote psychiatrist and death-camp survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, a million times before I die: "Humans are driven by a will to establish meaning in their lives. They need purpose."

Putting that exciting thought inside a million other minds would, I believe, qualify one as a "millionaire." People aren't remembered for their money. They're remembered for their ideas.

So, fellow travelers ...

... please be remembered at your going-away party as "the fundraiser who shook us by our tired shoulders and shouted loudly in our faces, 'There's big money in bequests!' I dried her spit off my cheeks and finally listened. And, because of her, our charity has grown exponentially. Today, because of her insistence on charitable bequests, this worthy charity can do 10 times more good than we could just a decade earlier. I speak to all of you here tonight who've joined our Visionary's Society. I want to say ... from children and families ... thanks from their future! That small gift in your will is rescuing so many 'unprivileged' worth rescuing ... as yet unborn! Your charity has a brilliant future, I can promise you. Your generosity will be the 'tiny privilege' that tips the balance for one child and then for many other children. A few hundred dollars of charity apiece does the trick. Easy enough to do in a small charitable bequest. You made that possible. The future loves you!" 

 

All we really know? Big, lost

 

All we really know is that the number of boomers leaving the workforce has been ... is ... and will be massive.

  

And they are ready for other things to do. They need new purpose! "There is no one more contorted and angst-ridden than a former CEO in the first 12 months of retirement. I pity their spouses." That's the gist from one expert on aging. 

  

Cue your cause.

 

To read more of Tom's articles, go to www.aherncomm



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