NEW YORK (AP) -- Growing up, Mark Metz remembers his parents writing checks and making other donations to charities. As an adult, he does the same -- with some adjustments.
''My mom would give $100 to 100 different charities because, to her, they were all worthy,'' said Metz, a 39-year-old Atlanta businessman. ''Whereas me, maybe I'm more cynical or more choosy in that I'm going to give $10,000 to one of them where I think that money is best going to be used.''
Metz's approach is shared by other baby boomers, the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. People who study charitable giving trends say boomers' insistence that their donations make a difference -- and their focus on specific charities -- are changing the business of giving.
''People born before World War II tend to see charities as authority figures and tend to be a little more reserved,'' said Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. ''Baby boomers by contrast tend to consider themselves more to be equals of charitable leaders and organizations. They like to seek out charities to donate to ... and they really want to focus on results.''
With an estimated $212 billion in charitable donations made in 2001, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals -- and the number of charities who want that money at record levels -- there is a lot at stake.
In response, charities are coming up with new ways to attract boomers.
''Charities are communicating much more with boomers than previous generations about how money's being spent,'' said Thomas Billitteri, an editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy. ''They're using the Internet, newsletters and surveys. Also, there's some degree of rethinking of fund-raising methods. There's a question about whether things like direct mail or telemarketing, which might have worked with previous generations, will work with boomers.''
Indeed, Joy Sutherland of Collierville, Tenn., rarely responds to request for donations made on the telephone or in the mail. Instead, she and her husband look for charities that reflect their interests and concerns -- such as health care -- and carefully scrutinize the organizations' financial statements.
The 46-year-old publicist also shuns fund-raisers such as charity balls, believing there are better uses for her donations.
She has, however, participated in walks that raise money to fight heart disease -- an approach that combines philanthropy and exercise, another activity popular with the boomer generation.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which organizes ''Race for the Cure'' walks and runs across the country, counts baby boomers among its most loyal supporters.
''In part, that's because breast cancer is a disease that affects a lot of people in the boomer age range,'' spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said. ''But this event also has wide appeal. This is something that everybody can come to: Husbands, kids, kids in strollers. It really helps grow our donations for the foundation and it really helps grow our volunteer base.''
There are also new ways to give. What's known as venture philanthropy, in which donors contribute money and expertise to a charity, has grown significantly in the last few years.
''We get a lot of people in their 40s,'' said Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners in Seattle. ''They think that by doing this they will not only contribute their money and skills, but they're also going to be able to use it as an educational experience. They get something in return.''
Boomers also use their own interests and background as a guide when making donations.
''They tend to support charities that have a direct relationship to their lives and their own experiences, whereas their parents might have supported charities that were there for the good of the community,'' said Bill King, president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. ''For example, a boomer might be interested in the environment, an issue that might not have been thought about as much by the previous generation.''
This a trend that corporate sponsors are well aware of. Retailers including CVS Corp. and Kmart Corp. partnered with the National Colorectal Research Alliance earlier this year to raise money for research into colon cancer -- a disease of particular concern to people in their 40s and 50s.
Cosmetic maker Avon has chosen to focus on breast cancer.
''Our representative base as well as most of our customers are women,'' said Susan Heaney, director of the 10-year-old Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which has raised more than $235 million worldwide since its inception. ''We're not doing it to drive sales. But obviously anything that can assure a customer that Avon has her interest truly at heart is meaningful.''
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