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Boomers Need (Tech) Love Too

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on May 26, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Want to hear something mildly embarrassing?

My parents read all my blog posts on here. Even this one.

Okay, that’s not embarrassing, it’s sweet, right? They’ve graduated from putting my report card on the fridge to sharing my blog posts on Facebook.

Yep, that’s right, on Facebook. My parents are Facebook fiends. They have a 4G enabled iPad that they take on the road with them everywhere. My mom even pulls it out when we’re out to dinner to show me pictures from their latest trip.

Yet I get flack for responding to a quick text under the table. C’mon! (just kidding mom, love you, enjoy the coffee I got you for mother’s day!)

Point is, my parents love their tech. They’re also solidly in the Baby Boomer generation.

There’s a common misconception that Boomers aren’t tech savvy, or that they don’t even use high-tech devices.

To quote this headline from Forbes, it’s “stupid and insulting” to say that Boomers don’t love tech. The numbers just don’t support that.

They may not use it in the same way younger generations do, but Boomers are highly connected.

Which is why it doesn’t make any sense to ignore your technology problems, even if you have an older donor base.

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The “older donor base” excuse for putting off technology updates is something that gets thrown around a lot in nonprofit circles. It just doesn’t make sense, on so many levels.

Boomers of all ages spend about as much time online as they do watching TV every week. Most nonprofits appealing to this generation would jump at the opportunity to spread their message on TV, yet they’re hesitant to make an investment in their online presence.

And Boomers aren’t just using their children’s tech; they’re spending more money on tech than any other demographic! Despite only representing 25% of the total population, Boomers account for 40% of tech spending.


So to say “our donors don’t use technology” is just plain false.

However, the biggest issue I have with the idea that older donors don’t need technology updates is that it doesn’t hold water once you dive into how Boomers use tech.

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

I’m a “digital native.” I grew up with technology in my home and in my hand. I’m more comfortable typing at a keyboard and navigating the internet than I am holding a pen. Tech just makes sense to me because it’s all I’ve ever known.

Boomers are “digital immigrants.” They had developed strong skillsets that my generation lacks long before the internet came along. The culture of the internet is not native to them.

And if you’re in a foreign land, you really want things to be clear. Crystal clear.

Therein lies the problem with neglected nonprofit tech: it’s clunky, unclear, and cluttered.

When Boomers use tech, they want it to work the way it should work. No muss, no fuss. Simple, direct, and clear.

Yet too often, they’re greeted with non-mobile-responsive donation pages and confusing donation experiences.

This is an audience that is not going to zoom in and out on an iPad to try to make a donation. They’re not going to click through endless form fields. They’re not going to add a donation to a shopping cart then check out.

They want it to be simple and easy.

Which Came First: The Boomer or the Online Donation?

Many times, nonprofits cite a lack of online donations as proof that their donors don’t donate online. Yet at the same time, they don’t offer an effective method of doing so.

It’s kind of like the problem bike enthusiasts face when pushing for bike lanes in cities. They’re met with opposition that says “We don’t need bike lanes, nobody bikes here!” In actuality, no one is biking because there are no lanes to bike in.

The numbers don’t lie: Boomers use tech. And unless you offer a seamless way for them to interact with your organization using that tech, you might be left out.

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Image credit: Flickr user Ian Livesey, CC BY 2.0

Topics: online fundraising, older donors,

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