Older Donors Catch Up in Online Giving

The Age Gap Has Closed

It seems that some charities have just lost their last excuse for not offering online giving to their donors.

For nonprofits that have older donor bases, that excuse was that older people just don’t go online to give to their favorite charities. They send checks, in the mail.

Well, that seems to be bunk, according to a Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker study. Here’s how the numbers stack up:

  • In 2010, 60% of people under the age of 65 said they had donated online.  In 2014, that group was still at 60%.
  • In 2010, only 29% of donors 66 years of age and up said they gave to a charity online. In 2014, 59% of that group gave online. The number of older online donors doubled in only four years.
  • Today, 3 out of 5 donors (60%) of all generations have given online.


This study also found that donors over the age of 66 have become the most likely age group to donate in response to an email.  In prior studies in 2010 and 2012, the researchers found that only 6% and 5% of donors of any age responded to an email fundraising appeal. By 2014, that number rose to 20%, but for older donors, it was 23%.  In earlier surveys, older donors had barely registered when it came to responding to emails.

Direct mail is definitely not dead, but going multi-channel is a must. The number of people of any age that give online in response to a letter received in the mail keeps growing. Now, only 36% of people

prefer responding by mail, while 53% prefer to go online to make their donation.  For the older group, going online is preferred by 39%, but that was only 15% in 2010.  

What does this mean for nonprofits? Rick Dunham, President and CEO of Dunham+Company, summed it up very well:

“From our perspective, charities must seriously consider that an older donor is now just as likely to hop on to their website to give as a younger donor. This means charities must do all they can to optimize their website for ease of use as well as streamline the giving process to better serve these older donors, as donors over 60 are a prime demographic for giving.”

It’s not just in online giving that the numbers of older people are increasing. The largest jump in adoption of the Internet in general is among older users. The Pew Research Internet Project reported earlier this year that six in ten seniors now go online, half of whom are on broadband connections.

Adoption of tech is not equal among older adults. Wealthier, more educated seniors use the most, while disadvantaged seniors lag behind.  Seniors also have preferences when it comes to their devices. More own tablets than smartphones, for instance.

Nevertheless, as everyday activities such as banking, shopping, and even healthcare go online, seniors will follow. Remember that baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day. These younger seniors bring technical skills, learned during their careers, along with them.

For nonprofits that might be lagging behind in online capability, do read the Startup Guide to Online Fundraising.  If your organization is wondering why your donors may not be using your donate now button as much as you’d like, make sure that your website design is not turning off donors, especially older ones.

The online age gap is over.  Is your nonprofit ready?

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