Do you know your donors' ages? At the very least, you should know when they were born.

Why? When you know their age group, you can tailor your messages and use the best delivery channel for that audience. All donors are not the same.

If you're not sure who's who, here's the breakdown: Matures were born before 1945, Boomers between 1945-1965, Gen X between 1965-1985 and Gen Y/Millennials after 1985.


There are several reasons why you should pay special attention to older donors.

Americans' generosity increases with age. According to Blackbaud, 72% of Boomers and 88% of Matures give to charity. It's closer to 60% for Gen X and Gen Y.

Older Americans tend to give more. Boomers make up 43% of total giving and Matures add another 26% to the total. That means nearly 70% of all charitable donations come from donors who are age 50 and above.

Older Americans tend to have more to give. A typical Boomer and Mature donor gives anywhere from two to three times more per year than their Gen X and Gen Y counterparts. In 2015, Boomers are expected to donate $62 billion to charity compared to $16 billion from Gen Y.

Lastly, older donors are your best prospects for major gifts and bequests. And those types of gifts can be truly transformational for your nonprofit.

That doesn't mean younger donors won't give or should be ignored. Just the opposite. What's important is getting the right message in front of the right donor at the right time and in the right way.


With all the ways we have to communicate today, you might be surprised to learn that many older people still prefer mail. Yes, snail mail.

Direct mail still works, especially for an older demographic.

Yet a recent report found that nearly one-third (32%) of nonprofits don't plan to send print newsletters in 2015. And more than one in 10 (12%) don't plan to send any print appeals. Are you one of those nonprofits? Let's hope not.

Assuming you're still sending print materials, how easy are they to read?


There are a number of rules that apply to nonprofit communications in general. For instance,

  • Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are preferred for print materials. Sans serif fonts (like Arial) are preferred for digital communications, like email and your website.
  • Limit your use of ALLCAPS and script fonts. Use italics and bold wisely.
  • Dark type on a white background is easier to read.
  • Bullets, lists and sidebars are easy to scan and, therefore, easy to read.
  • Short paragraphs, short sentences and short words are easier for readers to process. In fact, the maximum recommended length for paragraphs is six lines.

Today, there are some new rules for print materials and older donors. For instance,

  • Bigger is better. 12-point Times New Roman is no longer the standard. Use at least a 13-point font. 14 is even better for older audiences.
  • Allow sufficient leading around your characters. Leading adds a little white space around the letters. (In Word, you'll find it under Font > Character Spacing > Spacing = Expanded.)
  • Increase line spacing to 1.2, or even 1.5. Create even more white space by increasing the line spacing. (In Word, you'll find this under Paragraph > Spacing > Line Spacing.)
  • Don't use glossy paper. It can be reflective and harder for older eyes to read.
  • Present articles and stories on a single page. Allow your reader to read through an entire passage, without having to flip to another page to finish.

Send me a message and let me know if these tips will change the way you write to your donors and prospects. I love hearing from you.

Special thanks to Leah Eustace, ACFRE, for sharing her tips on how to design print materials for older donors.


Remember, there's more to grant writing than just "writing." Also remember, there's more to fundraising than just grants.

Check out this month's recommended reading (and watching!) to gain additional perspective on donors, their differences and how to communicate with each.

Download your free copy of Blackbaud's Next Generation of Giving report

Download your free copy of Kivi Leroux Miller's 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends report

Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders, win more grants and raise more money.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Third Sector Consulting can help you and your organization.