Are You Reaching the Grandparent Market?

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©2010 B. DeLouiseYou’ve heard it said a million times–we’re a “youth culture.” But consider this: 3 out of every 10 adults in America are grandparents—that’s about 80 million people.  And their number is increasing at about double that of the rest of the population.  Grandparents control 75% of the wealth in this country, and they’re spending quite a bit of it.  For example, they spend $100 billion a year alone just on entertainment.  They spend $2 trillion per year on goods and services. See Peter Francese, The Grandparent Economy, a study commissioned by, April 2009)

Is your company or nonprofit positioned to reach seniors?

Before you think about marketing to seniors, consider what products or services you offer that would serve this market niche. For example, law firms are finding elder law to be a burgeoning new legal field.  Attorneys are helping family members navigate the issues related not only to medical care and estate planning, but also guardianship and fiduciary administration.  The travel industry has long reached out to the grandparent market with cruises and tours. Now RoadScholar (formerly Elderhostel)  and Grandtravel offer grandparent-grandchild tour packages. Since the economic downturn, grandparents are also stepping in to purchase items for their grandchildren, from clothing to school supplies to dinners out. Consider what you have to offer that fits this trend.

On the nonprofit side, grandparents are generous donors.  They make 45% of the nation’s cash contributions to nonprofit organizations.  Studies on donors have long shown differences between men and women.  Since aging women are a large portion of the donor population (outliving their husbands), understanding their interests and behavior around philanthropy is critical. For example, it might surprise you to learn that older women respond to recognition before the group for their gifts.  That might mean a naming opportunity or it could mean receiving an award at an annual event.

How do seniors want to communicate?

Once you’ve figured out the product, service or charity you want to position with the grandparent  generation, you need to know how your target audience wants to communicate with you.  Since half the grandparent population are now baby boomers—soon to be 60% by 2015—many are comfortable with online tools like email and Facebook.  But not all grandparents want to see things via the web or email.  Many still prefer to communicate with charities by mail, which means you still need to send out print copies of newsletters or ask letters.  Checking in with your prospective and existing donors is always important, but especially now that this donor group contains such a wide range of comfort levels with the tools we use to reach out about a charity’s mission and accomplishments.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the grandparent market. It’s big and it’s here to stay.

What is your organization doing to reach the grandparent market?  Shoot me an email or post a comment here.

0 replies
  1. Ami
    Ami says:

    Your comment about the generosity of seniors is true for my organization (I work in public broadcasting). While seniors make up a healthy proportion of our listening/viewing audience – they make up a disproportionate amount of our donors – so your tips are very helpful – and timely.

    Wonder how to get more of the Gen X and Gen Y folks onto the donation bandwagon?


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