Aiming Older: Age Doesn’t Limit Online Giving

Any observer of today’s advertising scene might notice a telling fact: the majority of ads, regardless of media, seem to target a younger demographic. This is reinforced not just by the products being advertised and the age of the spokespeople. By comparison, the number of ads directed at the 60-plus age group is miniscule.

This doesn’t really make a lot of sense when you consider where the wealth is concentrated in the U.S. While many marketers believe it is best to capture consumers on their way up the earning scale, older consumers have already achieved maximum earning power. True, the faltering economy has hurt the age group closest to retirement or already retired, but there is still a lot of wealth in that older demographic.

Older Donors and the Online World

The same bias has been applied to the online world. Many marketers, nonprofits included, make the assumption that the older demographic is not active online. But the data says otherwise. In February 2009, for example, Facebook reported that its fastest growing demographic was women over 55, a prime target for nonprofits.

A survey conducted in November by Dunham + Company, a fundraising consulting firm, suggests an even more compelling argument for re-thinking online demographics. The firm looked at data from 524 donors who had given at least one gift of $25 in the past year by any method.

Surprising Results

The study found that while 61 percent of donors in all age groups surveyed had given an online gift at some point, 51 percent of those 60 years old and older (1 in 2) said they had done so. Even more interesting was the fact that once donors in this demographic give online, they tend to continue to giving online and at a higher rate than younger donors. In the survey, the mean number of gifts given online for 60+ year old donors was 14, while the mean number of gifts given online for those under 40 was 11. For the 40-to-59- year-old group, it was 15.

According to Dunham:

“It has been our experience that many organizations and fundraisers believe that the younger demographic is the group to target for online giving, and a larger percentage do give online. But this study shows that fundraisers need to shift their thinking as older donors are clearly an important demographic to online giving, especially since they give more gifts online once they begin to do so.”

Challenges with Online Giving

Still, nonprofits have some additional challenges when it comes to encouraging online giving. The study revealed that one in four online donors had started to give an online gift, but then stopped. Donors in all demographic groups said the largest improvement that could be made during the online giving process was being reassured about security. This was especially important to 57 percent of the 60+ demographic. The second most important improvement that could be made, according to all donors, was to “clarify what I’m supporting throughout the process.” The study also showed that of those 60+ year old donors who have not given online, 85 percent of them were not likely to consider doing so.

Dunham concludes that the study “reinforces the need to apply best practices around integrated, multi-channel communication strategies and give donors options on how they want to fulfill their gift.”

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