Specific Audience Segments

Fundraising blogger Jeff Brooks points to a compelling research report in Science News Online citing that the over-50 crowd "handles life’s rotten realities and finds life’s bright side more effectively than whippersnappers do…In contrast, people under age 50 experience negative emotions more easily than they do positive ones."

Well, that’s good news for all of us (something to look forward to), and, as Brooks points out, probably one of the key reasons that most nonprofit donors are older. But, as Brooks  suggests, these findings have some very real implications for nonprofit marketing and fundraising copy. If older folks are more emotional, connected, likely to see hope in a bad situation and more interested in having a positive impact, then adjust your communications accordingly, he says.

I’d like to take this one step further, with these recommendations:

  • Keep in mind that these findings are just that, findings. Just 242 people were studied. Hardly ironclad.
  • Nonetheless, my gut is that these researchers have something here. I could swear that the 80+ folks I know have more perspective, and thus are more hopeful and engaged. Why not 50+?
  • In reaching the 50+ crowd, focus on narrative and graphic content to motivate those emotional connections:
    • Feature case studies, since real life stories about real life people will facilitate emotional connection, and, you hope, the desire to make that positive impact through giving, volunteering, or….
    • Integrate photos of people involved — staff members, program participants, etc.
    • Provide testimonials from stakeholders on all sides.
  • In reaching the under-50s…
    • Don’t count on generating the emotional connection as easily. This audience is very sophisticated (online, on-cell, all the time).
    • Make sure you do good audience research to test what messages and delivery modes resonate best.
    • Never, never, never sugar-coat. Your nonprofit will lose all credibility. If the research is right, these folks don’t want to believe the best. Your job, marketing wise, is to make it impossible for them to believe anything but, and to act accordingly.
    • Double the importance of the recommendations made above when reaching under-30s. Talk about skeptical. Your nonprofit really needs to earn their trust and interest.

Read more about reaching under- and over-50s here:

Any thoughts? Please comment below.

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Nancy Schwartz in Audience Research, Branding and Messages, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Specific Audience Segments | 0 comments

I just stumbled on the Media/Materials Clearinghouse (M/MC), an international resource for all those with an interest in health communication materials: pamphlets, posters, audiotapes, videos, training materials, job aids, electronic media and other media/materials designed to promote public health.

Wow, one-stop shopping in health communications. Unbelievable. This is just the kind of innovative use of the web that I foresaw when the web was introduced. A central repository showcasing best practices from, and for, around the world. Kudos to the Health Communications Network for bringing the Clearinghouse to life.

Take a look today at this great resource, and useful model.

Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications, Recommended Resources, Specific Audience Segments | 0 comments

As we are reading constantly these days, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are a different species altogether from the GI-era folks who proceed them. For the AARP, which is wholly focused on those 50+, understanding what makes Boomers tick is absolutely crucial.

To build its understanding, the AARP implemented a study entitled "A Changing Political Landscape: As One Generation Replaces Another." Limited by a small survey sample size of 603, the study nevertheless promotes sweeping, off-putting conclusions that have great impact for your nonprofit’s marketing strategy:

"Our findings indicate that Boomers have a greater belief in government entitlements and a lesser belief in personal obligations than the GI Generation. Boomers are more likely to feel the government owes them something and less likely to believe they owe the country certain obligations, such as military service and paying taxes."

This study was featured in an article in the September / October 2004 issue of AARP: The Magazine, which also included such unflattering conclusions such as:

"The potential downside of a maturing Baby Boom is clear: as Boomers replace GIs as the dominant electoral demographic, the politics of selfishness could triumph."

If Baby Boomers are indeed guided primarily by selfishness, that fact has huge consequences for your marketing messages. How, if at all, can your nonprofit touch prospective donors, volunteers, board members, program participants, etc. if selfishness is their primary motivation? I’d like to hear your ideas on this, because I frankly don’t have too many.

But I do beg to differ with the AARP’s conclusion. Other studies, and my own experience in working with over 100 nonprofit organizations, and participating in some way with many others, speak against this harsh critique.

Granted, Boomers have not been known for closely following the traditions of the GI Generation, but Boomers have been creative in developing their own ways of giving back. One example is the concept of "checkbook philanthropy," giving multiple small amounts to charitable organizations in a relatively unplanned manner. In Giving USA, a recent study of charitable giving, Boomers out-donated "Post-Boomers" as a percentage of the respective cohort population in every category. For organizations "that help needy Americans," 73% of Boomers contributed versus 57% of Post-Boomers. For organizations "that fight diseases," 69% of Boomers contributed versus 43% of Post-Boomers.

What this says to me is that organizations like AARP must clean house of Boomer stereotypes while adapting marketing and message strategies to appeal to this iconoclastic cohort. What this means for your nonprofit is that you must shape marketing messages to reach this group that is much less likely to respond to traditional motivators.  This generation chooses paths less traveled, and to ensure high-impact marketing, you have to make sure that your messages meet their interests, habits and needs. 

Read more on how Boomers are affecting the nonprofit world this topic in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s special report, Make Room for Boomers

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications, Specific Audience Segments | 0 comments

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