Chances are really good that a preponderance of your donors are Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. Boomers have reached the life stage where charity is a higher priority, and their giving patterns reflect that. When we did the Generations study with Edge Research and Blackbaud we found that 43% of all dollars donated in the past year came from Baby Boomers.
Chances are also good that the woman or man writing your fundraising copy is a Gen-Xer or a Millennial – especially in the online space. So for those of you writing copy for a different generation know this – marketing to Boomers is not like marketing to your housemates.
As we age, researchers have found that we become more “right-brained,” that is, governed less by facts and logic and governed more by values and symbols.
“…as the Baby Boomer brain moves to the right, the marketer must also do so in how he or she develops communications for Baby Boomer markets. … The emotional, intuitive right brain is less interested in details than in the total picture. The left brain sees things in terms of categories; the right brain in terms of relationships. “
So what does that mean for you as a fundraiser?
(1) More feeling.
“Generating emotionally strong responses is more critical in Baby Boomer markets than in younger ones because older minds depend more on emotions (gut feelings, a.k.a. intuition) in forming perceptions, thoughts and decisions than younger minds do.”
(2) More vivid imagery and metaphors in the copy.
“The right hemisphere perceives reality in images — in sensory images to be more precise. So how does one convey non-visual sensory information in a print ad? By creating multi-sensory word pictures.”
(3) Use Real Pictures – and Powerful Ones – When You Can.
“Standing as abstract representations of reality, words generally are less evocative of emotions than images are. Sensory images are far more effective in this regard. And of course, the stronger the emotional responses generated by a message, the greater attention the message is likely to get.”
(4) Nothing will beat a good story!
“Finally, stories, stories, stories. The right brain loves stories. The stronger right brain bias of Baby Boomers also increases their responsiveness to messages conveyed through stories as opposed to expository or neutral statements. …. In fact, Baby Boomers are more likely than younger consumers to ignore a message that simply describes a product with little or no affect.”
Maybe you are in the infinitesimally small category of organizations funded by younger donors. If you are, ignore all this. If not, ignore at your own risk.