Older Donors Do It Online Too

Many charities see the internet as a way to communicate with the youth market, but it’s not just the young and hip who are online. Older donors are valuable and ignored at your peril, says Jonathan Waddingham, a Digital Strategist at JustGiving in London.

“It’s a fact that many charities rely on the ‘Dorothy donor’ demographic for support, yet they want to attract and recruit baby boomers and the nascent generation Y. In many cases they go online to find that younger demographic, assuming that only those under 35 will be on Facebook, Twitter and the rest. The internet is still seen, for some at least, as the playground of the young. Our experience shows that the opposite is true – older supporters are going online more and more.

At JustGiving, we wanted to find out more about a typical online donor to provide some insight into what they look like, how they behave and how they can be best served. We found that a significant proportion of donors were over 45, and that they gave the most money online. We surveyed people who donated to a fundraising page from August 2009 to January 2010. More than 5,200 online donors completed the survey and gave us a uniquely up-to-date pool of data to analyse.

Starting with age, the most popular age bracket for making a donation was the 25 – 34 year olds. But the 35 – 44 and 45 – 54 age ranges are not far behind. Interestingly though, the number of over-55s who took the survey was exactly the same as the 23-34 age bracket. So if you think that only the young donate online, you’re wrong.

For almost a third of the sample it was the first time they had made a donation online. However, 70 per cent of the 55 – 64 range had made a donation online before, showing that there’s no excuse for not asking older people to donate online. For most of them, it’s certainly not new anymore.

… Ofcom [in the U.K.] estimates that nearly two-thirds of adults who are over 55 carry out some sort of communication at least once a week on the web. After communications, the next most popular weekly activity for the over-55s (at 32 per cent) is transactions. The challenge is to make sure that that transaction is an online donation.

And to make that happen, you need to re-think how you communicate with older people online. Do you take simple steps like making it easy to adjust the text size on your website, and focus on meeting web accessibility standards? Or do you segment your online donors by age and ask for differing amounts? Have you researched other sites this older demographic visits, and do you advertise on them?

At JustGiving, we’re going to be exploring how we can provide targeted content for supporters based on non-intrusive data like their browser type, the time of day they are online or the sites they came from. Profiling and personalising online experience offer really great rewards.

Taking this further, does your marketing and communications strategy integrate online and offline? We’ve seen that people respond to email and conversations, so are your appeals easy to find? Since Google is so many people’s homepage, SEO and SEM are vital for making sure you attract this high value target audience.

Your most valuable donors are older, they are online and they donate online. But are you serving them well enough? If you don’t, someone else will.”

courtesy Civil Society Fundraising