Americans over 65 are more likely to donate money or goods than any other age group, according to the new Merrill Lynch study, “Giving in Retirement:  America’s Longevity Bonus.”  On average, they give more than double what adults 25-34 give, according to the study, conducted with Age Wave, a research group.  The report projects a potential giving surge in the U.S. over the next two decades of some $8 trillion, an amount boosted by the baby boom generation and increasing life expectancy.

Giving while living provides older donors with dividends in health and well-being and contributes to feelings of a purposeful retirement.  As clients approach this juncture, they think about their life experiences and the skills they have to share – personal and professional.  Here are some tips you can share with them to help you redirect their energies to philanthropy.

  1. Be clear on whether your retirement giving is part of or separate from family philanthropic activities and who will be involved. Are you running with this yourself? Will children or grandchildren be involved? Will legacy gifts to certain organizations require the services of others in the future?
  2. Identify your mission –Jewish day schools, for example, or more effective use of social media by non-profit organizations, or autism research.
  3. Take time to understand the landscape of organizations addressing your interests — their values, operational strengths and weaknesses, and their needs. Look for alignment between your values and philanthropic mission and those of possible recipients.
  4. Consider what you need to move forward – advice from peers and/or professionals or diving in to learn more about an issue you are passionate about. New on the funding radar screen, for example, is suicide among teenage girls, the leading cause of death among those ages 15-19, outside of Africa.
  5. Create a strategy and a budget. Do you lean toward advocacy efforts? Research? Social service programs?  Arts and culture? How many gifts do you anticipate making each year? What size is comfortable for you?  How will you assess the organization’s progress?

Finally, don’t ignore the chance to do something spontaneous or respond to opportunity when it knocks.  Planning is important, but remember to seize the day.  You’ve earned it.