Tuesday, 10 May 2011

How can your charity engage with Baby Boomers online

Debbie a typical Baby Boomer turns 54 on her next birthday, but she is likely to keep on working for the next 10 years. Her children have left home. So now Debbie is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, travelling and enjoying her hobbies.

At this point in their lives, Baby Boomers like Debbie (66 – 47 year olds) are likely to hold 80% of the UK’s wealth. They are ‘top spenders’ on new cars, cruises and skin care products. Boomers are very generous to charities too. In fact, they are likely to give more to charities than any other generation.

Generally Baby Boomers are comfortable with the Internet and are not afraid to make purchases or to donate online. But, the likes of Debbie grew up in the 1950’s and 1960s – the decades of heavy advertising, so they are sceptical of too much advertising and shrewd about their choices.

Debbie uses the Internet and mobile phone regularly but she doesn’t see them as an extension of herself. She is likely to use e-mail and social networking sites like facebook to carry out her work responsibilities or to stay in touch with friends and family. She is using search engines like Google and Bing to do her research before purchasing holidays, travel and other things online.

So, how is your charity to connect to Baby Boomers online? Here are some basic steps to consider for building effective relationships with Baby Boomers who are embracing new technologies:

1. Don’t ignore Baby Boomers online – A growing number of older people are taking advantage of the web right now so don’t ignore them. Often charities talk about using the web to connect with younger generations. Many charities tend to develop trendy applications or approaches that older people might find irrelevant or insulting. If you want to engage with Boomer’s online then plan to utilise the Internet and new technologies in ways that will empower Boomers to connect to your charity or cause.

Great examples of charities whose websites are engaging in creative ways with Baby Boomers are the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) and National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org).

Take a look at these websites when you have a minute and you will see how they tell their stories using words and images, how they explain their priorities and highlight their accomplishments, how they invite web visitors to take action – giving a wide menu of choices and how they promote donor benefits. Both these charities are targeting Baby Boomers in a big way so you can learn a great deal from them and the tools they are using to convert them from ‘website browsers’ into supporters.

2. Be authentic – Baby Boomers distrust institutions and have little time for un-authentic messages or appeals. You can’t just present ‘fudged’ stories or un-clear financial asks to them. So, if you want to get and keep Baby Boomers attention your website copy, e-mail appeals or other online giving campaigns should contain compelling messages that clearly state the needs you are meeting, the difference you are making, how much money is needed and how it will be used for the greatest impact.

As our research on Christian giving shows, transparency and accountability are of vital importance to Boomers. By including some information about your fundraising ROI’s and evidence of good stewardship of resources in your website and other online communications channels you are likely to increase the likelihood of receiving online donations from Baby Boomers.

3. Use lots of beneficiaries’ and supporters testimonials and photos. Testimonials can convert undecided Boomers into donors; so make sure you’re using them regularly. There is something about knowing that someone has really benefited from your charity’s work or, hearing that a donor has had a great experience as a supporter of your cause that helps other people decide to join in.

Trust is important for most Baby Boomers before they’ll buy or give online and testimonials or photos that show how your work has changed lives help establish that trust.

4. Make it easy for Baby Boomers to stay in touch with your charity. Boomers like to share experiences and connect with their families and friends and even with strangers via email and selected social networks like facebook. So make it easy for them to subscribe to your e-mail updates, like your facebook page, your blogs or follow your charity on twitter. Get a few Baby Boomer friends to have a look at your charity’s website and listen to what they have to say about ease of navigation, font sizes, content, images, etc.

5. Set up several social media profiles in addition to your charity’s website. If you haven’t done so already now is the time to get your charity on facebook, twitter, linkedin, upload your photos on flickr and your video clips on vimeo.

You can use facebook and twitter to start conversations online, share relevant news, invite prayer, and tell inspiring stories that are of interest to Boomers. Also, you can use sites like flickr and vimeo to load up photos and videos documenting the impact you are making and invite people to have a look and share these images with others. Through social networking sites your Baby Boomer friends and supporters can connect with each other, become ambassadors for your cause and turn from contacts into donors.

A good example of facebook marketing to Baby Boomers is the ‘The National Trust’ page. Note the abundance of photos, discussion starters, videos, simple competitions and other supporter engagement tools focused on building relationships with UK’s wealthiest and healthiest generation.

6. Make sure your charity is easily found by search engines. This might sound like old news but a lot of research actually suggests that the first stop for new web users (i.e. another name for non tech-savvy people) is a search site. So, what are you doing to make sure that your website can be easily found by search engines?

Another thing to bear in mind is making sure you have your full website address visible and in a prominent place in various printed communications. Why? Because according to a research paper from Yahoo! published in 2010 older first time web users (e.g. Seniors and Boomers) are 29% more likely than younger web users to type the full URL in a search box.

7. Whatever you do make sure you don’t call them ‘old’ – from their early days Baby Boomers have considered themselves to be a special generation. They might be getting old but they don’t like the idea of being told they are ‘old.’

So, as you tailor your messages and diversity your media channels to engage effectively with Baby Boomers you must realise that Boomers are going to be different from their parents. All you can do is to listen and respond to their needs.

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