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Seniors Go Social, But Don’t Hyperventilate

The latest report from Pew Research [1] says 72% of online adults are using social network sites. But perhaps most striking, those ages 65 and older have roughly tripled their presence on social sites in the last four years — from 13% in 2009 to 43% now.

That’s good news. It means there’s another channel through which to place our causes and needs in front of a segment of the public that is traditionally very attuned to bettering the world around them.

But before you online fundraisers get all giddy and delirious out there, celebrating the coming convergence of seniors’ social media savvy with their prime time of life for giving, let’s keep in mind that many more seniors — I’ll bet far more than are fluent with social media — can still barely browse the web and use email.

I spent some time today with a couple of 65+ friends who just bought a new computer … they had their last one about eight years! How quaint, you’re thinking. They’re struggling to get their email to work properly (as in, they can’t even find emails they know they’ve recently sent or received), what with all the built-in ‘features’ that clever 22-year-old programmers build into these things (more on that below!).

And my in-laws, in the 80+ category, recently had to resort to private in-home ‘tutorials’ to figure out their new system.

Mind you, these four are each highly educated and seasoned political activists and donors, with fingers into all sorts of causes and charities. But I don’t expect you’ll find any of them on Facebook … ever.

My observation is not meant to discourage use of social media; just to introduce a dose of reality into the picture. While you’re dabbling in social media, don’t forget to do things like offering larger font sizes on your website … and keep your online response pages very clean and simple. First things first.

And then, what to do about social media and seniors?

Awhile back, I pointed you to AARP [2] and their very extensive social media efforts aimed at the 50+ population. Of course they have far more resources to devote to wooing and activating seniors via social media than — I suspect — any other fundraisers reading this post.

I’ll stick by my advice at the time. Watch what they do. Adapt what makes sense for your circumstances. In other words … steal!


P.S. An example of 22 year-old developers gone amok is Gmail’s new system that pre-sorts your incoming email for you, probably presumptively dumping your favorite email-fed blogs and newsletters, like The Agitator, in Promotions limbo!

If you’re a Gmail user and this is happening to you, try this …

Go to the new Promotions tab, and drag an email from The Agitator into your “Primary” inbox.

After you do that, you’ll get an alert that asks you if you want to do this for future emails. Click “Yes!” and you won’t miss any of our daily posts! Don’t let Gmail come between us!

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Seniors Go Social, But Don’t Hyperventilate"

#1 Comment By Denisa Casement On August 8, 2013 @ 6:07 am

I’m in Ireland and we’re in the middle of a telephone campaign. What we’ve discovered is that over 80% of our donors who are making a monthly pledge do not even have email. These are donors we acquired with direct mail and contacted by phone for a monthly gift. Only 30% of the monthly givers we have acquired over the last 10 months have email addresses.

The digital divide varies greatly by country and even by region within the US.

#2 Comment By Greg Warner On August 8, 2013 @ 7:24 am

With the growing number of seniors online and using social media, we have found that “awareness” efforts for planned gifts can be very effective.

I’m not talking about overly promotional messages. Planned giving marketing is different from other fundraising. It requires a multi-step process and the first is “awareness”. Then you need to generate leads. After that, you need to cultivate those leads. And finally, close the gifts.

But many folks will leave a planned gift without “raising their hand” (generating a lead). Planned giving is often a very private matter. So it’s important to build awareness among your passionate supporters (not just donors). And many of them can be found “liking” and “sharing” your Facebook posts.

The cost to build awareness among seniors on Social media is so low and the returns can be so tremendous (average gift in the U.S is around $30,000-$40,000).

The trick is to remember that Facebook and other Social Media are tools just like hammers are tools. You can use hammers to build stuff or you can use them to break stuff. But if you use the social media tools wisely, you can generate millions of dollars for your organization as the aging senior population (now online in record numbers) and pass on.

#3 Comment By WA Turner On August 8, 2013 @ 9:57 am

One thing your “22 year-old developers” seem to overlook is how much easier it is to lose a reader than to keep one. This obsessive tinkering and tweaking things that already work makes their lives interesting (and helps justify their jobs), but it often leaves older users in the dust.

The Gmail “upgrade” is a classic example. My aunt checked her Gmail a few days ago and saw the new Primary vs. Promotions tabs. She tried for about five seconds to figure out how to use it, said,”to hell with it,” and wrote me that she’s going back to Yahoo because it’s so much easier.