This blog post first appeared in Philantopic.
Some of the biggest nonprofit campaigns of recent years were most notable for how well they mobilized the ever-elusive Gen Y demographic. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a viral sensation, and the It Gets Better Project's successful YouTube videos helped bring light to important issues affecting the LGBT community.
But while these efforts certainly have helped to illuminate the future of fundraising, they haven't been as successful in engaging older people, who consistently give the largest donations year after year. For those hoping to use technology to connect with their older donors, here are five important points to keep in mind as you create your digital plan of attack.
Older donors are much more tech-savvy than many give them credit for
Nearly 3 out of 5 donors age 66 and older currently make donations via the web.
With the rise of tablet computing and streamlined mobile user interfaces, mobile technology is more accessible to different age groups than ever before. Studies show that in recent years, older users have proven to be very adaptable when it comes to new technologies and are just as likely to donate online as their younger counterparts.
Even though older users need a bit of extra care when it comes to accessibility, it's important that you don't view your older donors as technologically illiterate. The tough part is catering to these older audiences while still creating a digital experience that appeals to younger constituents as well.
Making your site more accessible to older donors
When catering to an audience of older constituents, the ideal goal is to strike a happy balance between quality design and carefully considered user-friendliness.
A few design details in particular, like font size and page navigation, are critical for making a site accessible to older visitors. According to Nielsen's usability tests of users aged 65 and over, older citizens require larger typography, with 12-point fonts (and higher) working best. In addition, older users tend to be more frustrated by frequent site and design changes. While this is less of a design detail, it's a good point to note for web designers who like to make tweaks on a regular basis.
When it comes to driving conversions, make sure you're prominently featuring all of your most common actionable functions. If you have a "donate" button, make it clearly visible on every page. By minimizing the number of clicks between your users and the option to donate or volunteer, you create an online presence that is simultaneously accessible and streamlined. For examples of sites that do this well, visit the Sierra Club, New York Road Runners, or the American Cancer Society.
Take advantage of design trends that are friendly even to older users
Whether you're catering to younger or older audiences, clarity in design transcends age and will need to be your top priority when creating a website or mobile app. In order to make your site as senior-friendly as possible, keep things just simple enough to accommodate older users while still providing appeal to younger audiences.
For an example of a site that does accessible design exceptionally well, take a look at MIT's AgeLab, a multidisciplinary research institute that studies these issues in depth. The site features a great deal of white space, smooth animations, and large typography with a text-size toggle at the top of the screen. In addition, the slideshow keeps the site visually appealing without over-complicating it.
Don't be afraid to reach out via social networking
In the past few years, the baby boomer demographic on social media has grown dramatically, with 70 percent of boomers having established a Facebook presence and 40 percent using the site on a regular basis. While developing a social media strategy is a must for nonprofit organizations, it's important to tailor your efforts to the demographic with which you're hoping to connect. In this day and age, that means developing a presence in all sorts of places.
When looking to engage baby boomers, you should prioritize Facebook over platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, which are far less used by the boomer demographic. And when creating content for these platforms, be sure to use stories and lots of images.
Don't forget about mobile
From 2012 to 2013, mobile usage among Americans over the age of 65 more than tripled, and the number is still growing. When developing a website or mobile app, it's important to keep your older constituents in mind and to develop your strategy accordingly.
Studies show that boomers tend to use their mobile devices primarily for online browsing and email, with apps often an afterthought. So, when designing with boomer donors in mind, it's probably best to put your efforts into a responsive website instead of a standalone mobile app, as the web is where more of your older donors are likely to be found.
If you do decide to go with a responsive site - an approach that in many cases has led to organizations doubling the amount of donations they generate through standalone mobile apps - you should focus on keeping things as readable and clean as possible. Check out ONE, WWF, and Easter Seals for some great examples of clean, responsive design.
The most important thing to note about designing digital experiences for older donors is that you don't have to make compromises. By leveraging clean design, social media platforms, and accessibility options, you can make a site that accommodates the needs and preferences of your older donors without sacrificing the interest and engagement of your younger supporters.
HIMANSHU SAREEN, an Indian entrepreneur and corporate executive, is the founder and CEO of Icreon, an IT consultancy and software solutions firm with offices in the U.S., U.K., and India.
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