Monday, June 25, 2007

What’s Your Boomer Strategy?

What’s your boomer strategy? Don't have one? You're not alone. Here are some resources that can help.

An important part of the information gathering and analysis that lays the groundwork for successful strategic planning is the external assessment, sometimes called the environmental scan. The purpose of the external assessment is to identify and assess changes and trends in the environment in which a nonprofit operates that are likely to have significant future impact on the nonprofit itself as well as the people and communities being served. Typically, we look at political, economic, technological, social, lifestyle, demographic, competitive, regulatory and broad philanthropic trends. We then determine which changes are opportunities for our organization (for example, opportunities to grow) and which could be threats to us in some way (for example, trends that can have a negative impact on our revenue generating activities). Finally we identify implications for selected changes and trends -- ways our nonprofit might respond to the opportunities and threats we identify.

Some of the changes and trends will be of special interest to a particular nonprofit given its mission. For example, a nonprofit organization that promotes home ownership in city neighborhoods will focus on relevant federal and state policies, interest rates and other economic changes that affect family income levels.

At the same time, there are broad external changes and trends that will have impact on nonprofits regardless of their mission focus. Sometimes the anticipated impact is so great that every nonprofit doing strategic planning needs to craft a strategic response to that trend. For example, the effect of Sarbanes-Oxley and other developments that intensify the call for public accountability of nonprofits are prompting many organizations to change internal governance practices and, in general, to focus more on efforts to enhance public awareness and understanding of their work.

Today there are several other broad trends of this type that come to mind. One of the most important is the impact of baby boomers as they now begin to retire. A lot is being written about what boomers will be doing with their volunteer time and their charitable dollars. Also, for a number of reasons, many boomers will put off retirement to continue working in their current jobs or in new part-time positions. Several studies suggest that many boomers, when they think of employment "after retirement", express a preference for work in the nonprofit sector.

All of this represents great news for nonprofit organizations. The problem is that many nonprofits are not thinking about how to capitalize on this phenomenon. This trend and its implications are so important that a strategic plan that doesn’t include concrete strategies to tap into Boomer charitable giving, volunteering and professional workplace skills and knowledge is deficient in a serious way.

The great news: lots of excellent resources available with guidance to nonprofit leaders trying to better understand this trend, identify implications and develop a strategic response. Here are a few:

• One of the most recent books on the subject is Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit by Peter C. Brinckerhoff which outlines in very specific ways what you can expect and how to plan for it. This publication also includes an assessment tool.

• The Boomer’s Guide to Good Work by Ellen Freudenheim, published by The MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures. Go to:
• Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company published a landmark study on Baby Boomer trends in fundraising and advocacy. Go to:

• A recent Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund survey reports that boomers are on track to give 20% more than the average donor. Go to:

• The best effort to date to bring resources together in one place is “Baby Boomer Volunteer Resources” compiled by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. Go to: