5 Secrets to Improve Your Success When Writing to Senior Donors

When writing for the fundraising niche, you can increase the success of your efforts by tapping into senior donors. This group gives money for a variety of reasons … and they like to be asked.

The secret of success with seniors is the same as it is when targeting any other group of prospects: understanding how they like to give, what motivates them to give, and what types of offers they respond to best.

Here are five of the most important characteristics of this powerful group, as described in FundraisingSuccess Magazine:

  1. Older Donors Like to Give Via Direct Mail.

    Even though many older donors are Internet savvy, they still respond better to direct mail than to Internet appeals. They were raised on snail mail, and have developed a comfort with direct mail that translates into success when you present them with well-written appeals.

  2. Older Donors Want to Honor Others.

    Seniors, more so than younger people, recognize the personal satisfaction of paying tribute to others. For this reason, they respond well to premiums that honor deserving people.

    This year, for example, a fundraising mailing scheduled shortly before Mother’s Day included a printed rose. Donors were asked to write their name on one side of the rose and the name of a woman they’d like to honor on the other side – and then to mail the rose with their donation. The promotion was extremely successful with the older demographic.

  3. Older Donors Respond Well to Monthly Giving Plans.

    Most older donors budget their monthly household expenses, and they prefer to break up their donations the same way. That’s why many of them respond well to electronic pledge programs where a set amount of money (say, $25) is automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts or charged to credit cards every month.

    Auto-payment programs also allow seniors to give more over the course of a year than they might otherwise be comfortable doing in one lump sum.

  4. Older Donors Give Best to Specific Causes.

    Seniors give primarily to health care, international development, and environmental causes.

    With environmental causes, they respond best to those that have something to do with animals or wildlife conservation. They’re much less interested in action-oriented, activist causes.

    Their support of health-care organizations is frequently related to their own medical problems or those of their loved ones – like hospital care, cancer research, Alzheimer’s research, and other senior-oriented health issues.

  5. Older Donors Respond to Emotional Appeals.

    Younger donors tend to be more “show me” oriented than seniors. But appeals that tell a story or otherwise get older donors in touch with their emotions work well with the older group.

    For instance, a recent mailing for the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation featured a picture of a marmot on the envelope. A word bubble above the little critter’s head asked “Will you please help me?” This approach was very successful with seniors – certainly more successful than one that focused on stopping pollution in a nearby factory would have been.

As with all aspects of copywriting, the key to success in fundraising is knowing who your prospect is and what really motivates him on a deep, personal level. Add to that an understanding of how he wants to give, and you have a winning combination.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
No ratings yet
Published: October 9, 2006

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)