More Boomers and Seniors in the Online Groove

in Fundraising,Online Fundraising,Social Media

Yes, yet another study on what boomers and seniors are doing online was released.  Specifically it addresses how they’re using social media. 

The primary finding is that “…social networking use among those ages 50 and older nearly doubled over the past year.”  They’re getting into the groove with networking sites. This is from a study by the Pew Research Center (“Older Adults and Social Media).

In fact among those ages 50-64 that are online, nearly half (47%) use social networking sites (an 88% increase).  And for those users over the age of 65, one in four (26%) are socializing online (a 100% increase over the previous year).

Significance to Nonprofits

Seniors (over the age of 65) comprise the vast majority of donors for the vast majority of charities.   

Boomers also ought to be a target market that charities are reaching out to.  This group is worthy of much attention and cultivating so they too become a major segment of your donor pool . . . so they’re already supporting you in one way or another before they reach age 65.

And if these two groups are using more social media then this is where you can find them.  Go where the people are.

1 – Start now to expand your donor profile to include the “young donors age 45-55.”  Reach out to them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube to name a few.  Have a presence on these networks and seek out those who fit your target donor profile.

2 – If most of your donors are over 65, keep your website design simple.  Minimize the raz-a-ma-taz, flash, etc. This drags site loading to a death crawl.

This is always good advice but the Pew research found that “seniors over 65 are among those least likely to have high-speed Internet access at home — less than one-third of them have broadband.”

Make it easy for web visitors to enlarge font size

Also have a way for web visitors to increase the size of the font.  Make this prominent and EASY to find.  The graphic to the left illustrates what I mean.


3 – Email is a great way to communicate with seniors and boomers.  60% of boomer Internet users send or receive email; and this is true for 55% of seniors.

4 – Consider online ads (i.e., Google Display ads) to reach those who visit other types of websites. For example: A very large segment of web users also get their news online (42% boomers, 34% seniors), do banking online (22% boomers, 19% seniors), and fewer use online classifieds (6% boomers, 5% seniors).

Why boomers & seniors use social media

Knowledge of your target audience is priceless.  Knowing why boomers and seniors are using social media will help you tailor your communications so they resonate with the readers.

According to Pew research, the three primary reasons are these:

1 – Connections with friends and colleagues from their past can “…provide a powerful support network when people near retirement or embark on a new career.” 

Takeaway: If you’re on the staff of a membership association, how might you use this knowledge to attract more members?  How might you tap into the experience and knowledge of these people to educate and train more of your younger members?

2 –Older adults are more likely to be living with a chronic disease.  Those living with these diseases are more likely to reach out for support online.”  Blogging and online health forums or listservs are popular with some people coping with a serious illness.

Takeaway: How might this knowledge help your health or disease research charity grow?  Can they find you and the help they need on social sites?  Are you giving them the web communication channels they want?

3 –Social media bridges generational gaps . . . these social spaces pool together users from very different parts of people’s lives and provide the opportunity to share skills across generational divides.”

Takeaway: Similar to #2, health charities can also reach out to younger age groups who may have parents or grandparents suffering from a chronic disease.  They may well want to support a charity that’s helping a family member.   And there are many types of nonprofits that can use this generational diversity to their advantage.

Proceed with a Plan

But I don’t want you to blindly dive head first into the deep water.  You might drown.  What I mean is that without a nonprofit social media plan you could easily use precious resources inefficiently.

Therefore, first have a plan on how you’ll integrate social media into your fundraising and marketing strategy, and know what you want it to do for your nonprofit.

With your plan in place . . . here’s one idea on how to leverage your time and the content you create: Add a blog to your static website. No one needs to know it’s a blog (have your web designer create a header that matches the rest of your site). 

But it’s a super easy and fast way to add content – to keep your website fresh.  And if it’s not “obvious” that it’s a blog then you won’t feel burdened to update it every other day or so. 

The advantage is that each time you add a success story from the field to your website (i.e., the blog), you can have it automatically update your Facebook page

More detailed results from the study

• One in five (20%) online adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago.

• Among adults ages 65 and older, 13% log on to social networking sites on a typical day, compared with just 4% who did so in 2009.

• One in ten Internet users ages 50 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

As the study says, they’re using these sites to connect with old friends, keep in touch with family (especially those far away including nieces, nephews, and grandkids), building networks for finding jobs and furthering their careers, and to keep current on events.

Boomers and seniors are groovin’ online.  More and more are expanding their online use every day.  Go where the people are.  Integrate your fundraising and marketing plans to include social media.  But do this wisely.  Do this with a plan.

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