We crave legacy. And that craving becomes compulsion as we enter our 70s

One of America’s biggest charities recently shared with me some fresh data about its donors.

I want to share a couple of highlights with you, because it’s a massive sample from one of the world’s best known charity brands. And it offers a revealing look at who exactly the typical US donor is.

Bottom line: Most donors are probably (way) older than your boss and your board imagine

This charity’s largest group of active donors is age 87.

The next largest group is age 86.

After that comes a tie: ages 85 and 75 have about the same number of active donors for this charity.

Don’t let magical thinking hold your organization back. You think you’re speaking to everyone, but in fact you’re mostly speaking to older folks. And they are different, both physically and psychologically, than, say, people in their 40s.

(“We must find younger donors!” is not a realistic response to this data, by the way, as the 20 Questions PDF points out.)

Consequences of an older audience

Around 2012, the AIGA (“the professional association for design”) issued an advisory: “For eyes over 60, use 14 point type for body copy.”

Lest we forget: a good “customer service experience” is one of the chief reasons why donors stick with a charity, according to Dr. Adrian Sargeant. So, for eyes of “a certain age,” 14 pt. type will be a good customer service experience … while 12 pt. type will not be.

Can you read me now?

But type size is the least of it

According to geriatric psychologist, David Solie, the elderly are on “a journey” that’s unrecognized by most.

“Many of us look at members of our parents’ generation and see a diminished version of the vibrant people we once knew,” he writes in his book, How to Say It to Seniors.

“Surely they aren’t developing anymore, because we can see them declining right before our eyes.”

But that’s not true. They are still developing as human beings.

They are working their way through what Solie calls “their end-of-life tasks.”

And these tasks include “searching for a legacy.”

Solie also calls it “life review.” And it is essential and involuntary. “Every day, every hour, whether they mention it or not, the seventy-plus age group is reviewing their lives.”

I mention this because it’s a stage of life mostly unsuspected, until you get there yourself.

Give me legacy

Think how important their acts of charity, past and present, can be to someone who is searching for a legacy.

Acts of charity help define us. They say, “This is in part who I am. This is what I do for others. This is how I try to help. This is me at my best.”

Now explain again why you never can find the time to market charitable bequests to your donor base? That would be the donor-centered thing to do.

How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, David Solie, 2004, Prentice Hall Press

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