5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time Online With Mature Donors

We’re all getting older. Let’s just get that on the table.

But we’re also getting better, I like to think.

As more of us climb that ladder—by 2030 all baby boomers will be age 65 and older—we’re redefining the stereotype of aging.

The shift away from “golden years” to “go-get-’em years” among mature donors affects how we, as planned giving professionals, interact with them. It extends into every donor and messaging touchpoint, including our online outreach. Senior donors are increasingly going online for news and information and they want to know your nonprofit’s there too.

Case in point: Baby boomers, which contribute 41% of all individual gifts, tend to donate online more. While they still engage with nonprofits through direct mail, their online giving and social media use continues to rise.

Additionally, 30% of donors aged 75+ (known as Greatest Generation) say they have given online in the last 12 months.


First, understand where they’re coming from: life perspectives, giving aspirations and what sparks their desire to connect.

Behavioral insights from authors Crawford Hollingworth and Liz Barker offer additional considerations:

  • “Been there. Done that.” Reasoning and deliberative capacities in decision-making decline as we age; luckily, knowledge and experience tend to fill the gap. “Day-to-day, older people rely … more on gut-feel, intuition, rules of thumb and shortcuts—things learned through experience. …”
  • “Just the facts, please.” It gets harder as we age to ignore or sift through irrelevant information and process numeric information.
  • “Too many choices!”Older people are more likely to defer decisions when faced with what they perceive as too many options or information that is too difficult to wade through to reach a decision.  
  • “Go with the good.” Since intuition, gut-feel and emotion play greater roles in decision-making, seniors tend to respond to positive emotional experiences. “They focus on what brings emotional satisfaction, either through meaningful relationships (such as grandchildren or friendships) or ways in which to savor life, because they perceive their life is nearer its end than its beginning.”

“How to Get Real With Donors in This Virtual Age” also offers a quick refresher on strategies that resonate with older and younger generations. In “What Motivates Mature Donors? A Conversation With My 74-Year-Old Dad,” Content Director Katie Parker provides a personal story of giving motivators. 


1. Choose planned giving language carefully.

Don’t paint a picture of darkness or end of life. Instead, create mental images of openness, empowerment, a life of purpose—a life well lived—through words, photos and stories.

I love this quote from a client’s donor story that captures this idea of a life-affirming perspective:

“Being legacy donors feels so good—like our lives have purpose. Why not enjoy that feeling when you’re here and healthy, knowing … your money is going to do some good?”

2. Avoid “death” talk.

I realize I’m being blunt, but this point requires directness. Here’s why: People respond to death reminders negatively, with two stages of defense, says Dr. Russell James and Michael Rosen in “Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

First reaction? Avoiding the subject. “It’ll never happen to me,” for example. Steering clear of cemeteries or hospitals is another common reaction.

The second stage, authors say, is pursuit of symbolic immortality or lasting social impact. “In other words, I may disappear, but some part of my identity—my family, my values, my in-group, my people, my story, my causes—will remain.”


1.  Use positive imagery.

A study found that, relative to younger people, older adults showed greater preference for emotional advertisements relying on positive affect. They also tended to hold on to the information and positive feeling; the takeaway was longer lasting with positive, or hopeful photos.

Our client World Wildlife Fund’s planned giving page leads with this idea. The headline “Protect Wildlife and Wild Places—Even Beyond Your Lifetime” is short, clear and leading to one choice—on point to influence mature donors. It’s also a positive message, tying the need, or problem faced by animals and our planet, to the donor’s ability to make a change while also creating their legacy. The first paragraph adds value as it distills the bigger issue down to personal impact.

2. Make your online pages reliable and readable.

Twelve-point font or larger is best, according to Nielsen’s usability tests of users aged 65 and over. Mature users tend to be more frustrated by frequent site and design changes too. Keep that in mind when building or revamping your site. Try to do it all at once with an official rollout instead of little tweaks on a regular basis.

3. Provide an easy-to-follow donor journey.

On your planned giving website or pages, use subheads that guide donors from information gathering (“Tax Benefits of Making a Planned Gift”) to decision-making (“Language to Include in Your Will”). Make buttons to other forms or pages clearly visible. Avoid button language that screams like a command, like “Find Out More!” Replace with helpful tones, like “We Can Help,” or connote impact, like “Create Your Legacy.”

Takeaway: Offer simple choices with minimal options and information that is succinct and straightforward.

4. Reach out regularly.

Your online outreach doesn’t always have to be business-like. Schedule a legacy society coffee hour or virtual thank-you luncheon. (Have boxed lunches sponsored and delivered to donors ahead of time.) Host a virtual program spotlight or facility tour on Zoom or another online meeting platform. A light-exercise session with an instructor and your office team would strengthen minds, bodies and certainly donors’ loyalties.

5. Remember social.  

According to Pew Research Group research, Facebook is the No. 1 social media platform for users 65 and up. YouTube is the second most popular. Social media is the perfect space to share impact stories, videos and photos. Find social media best practices in a recent bit of banter (a Q&A) with me and Stelter’s Creative Director and Marketing Director Zach Christensen. 


Are you regularly posting on Facebook or YouTube with your mature donors in mind? Perhaps you’ve focused on using positive imagery and messaging, or easy-to-read formatting for emails or e-newsletters. Any other tips for connecting online with older donors?

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