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Underachievers

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Charities, advisers need to spur Baby Boom philanthropy.

By Todd Cohen

[06.23.04] – They wanted to change the world, but Baby Boomers instead have become slackers.

Compared to their parents’ “Greatest Generation,” boomers have done less by every measure of civic engagement, a new study says.

Still, as they near retirement, boomers born between roughly 1946 and 1964 can make a huge difference in their communities, says the study by the Harvard School of Public Health—MetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement.

But converting the biggest and most self-absorbed generation ever into doers of good deeds will take a lot of pushing.

Charities need to better engage boomers and connect them with younger generations, the study says.

The entertainment and advertising industries also can help, it says, by showing that community work can be productive and inspiring.

Charity is expected to get at least $6 trillion that will move between generations over the next 50 years.

Tapping boomers’ huge but unmet potential to contribute their wealth and know-how creates a giant opportunity for charities and for the lawyers, accountants, estate planners and other professionals who advise donors.

By helping them understand community needs and find causes they care about, charities and advisers can help boomers find themselves and make a difference.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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