science news online jeff brooks donor power blog aging messaging to boomers boomers fundraising generation z generation Y generation Z

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

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