Saturday, 13 July 2013

Mobile, mobile mobile...

Last week I was in London for the IoF National Fundraising Conference. The hottest sessions were about mobile campaigns or how to integrate mobile into a multichannel campaign. I really enjoyed the sessions. The charities and agencies presenting were honest about what was working and what wasn't and what kind of ROI's to expect. All really good information from really sharp people pushing the charity sector to try and keep up with the commercial sector. There was a lot of talk about text to give and a lot of talk about making sure your website is optimised for mobile viewing and particularly mobile donations. There was also a good bit of hype from various vendors trying to tell us where we should be spending our budgets so we don't get left behind by the "revolution".

But... (I always seem to have a big but) I wasn't hearing much discussion about mobile browsing based on age cohort. I was interested to see this study included in our Squared Online reading list. The bar graph at the top of the page is from this study on mobile device ownership.

 The age cohort I'm most interested in are the over 50's. Research over many decades and across many countries has consistently shown that in fundraising, our most consistent and highest value donors are over 50. The most obvious reason is, of course, they have more money. But it also has to do with their stage of life. They're into the "empty nest" stage of their lives. They're generally settled into homes that are nearly or completely paid off and they no longer have a growing family on which to spend their money. As they head toward their 60's their focus turns from acquiring money to leaving a mark on the world. Many turn to charitable work as a way to express and support  their values.

So... the fact that smart phone users account for only 20-25% of 50-65 yr-olds and less than 10% of 65+ means the rush to mobile for charity fundraising is largely leaving out our most valuable donors. The exception is text to give which doesn't require a smart phone. All the other mobile strategies were aimed at the smart phone market. This study was done in the US in 2011. So smart phone usage would have continued to rise among all cohorts. But our most valuable donors, the 65+ cohort, though growing fast, is still far behind the younger cohorts in mobile web browsing. I'm currently living in Ireland and the 60+ cohort here are a good few years behind their peers in the US and the UK in adopting technology.

And... I'm now learning about digital marketing and the many channels of social media being used to market and build awareness of brands. What I'm really not hearing enough about is the very different ways digital media is used by different age cohorts. In charity marketing I'm seeing organisations throwing a lot of time and money into marketing channels predominantly used by 20-30 somethings. This age cohort, although civic minded and well intentioned, doesn't have the disposable income to be high value donors and once acquired their attrition rate is very high compared to older donors. Once you do get them to give to a charity they aren't going to stick around long. Their lives are in flux and they're heading into child rearing years when all their income will be consumed by their growing families. This is great news for companies selling products consumed by families but not optimal for charities looking for long-term, high value donors.

What does this mean?  This means charity fundraisers need to know where the money is. They need to understand how this cohort shops and gathers information and what channels are most appropriate for building lasting relationships. How is the 50-60yr cohort using digital? And what about the 65+? What mediums do they trust most? Nick, one of our Squared Online instructors, also cited an interesting study showing that people trust print and TV more than digital. I suspect this trend is stronger among an older cohort.

How do we cut through the hype? This is where good research is like gold. For every channel we study I'm going to be asking the very tiresome questions: "Do over 50's use this? Are over 60's using this channel at all? How do the 50+ and 65+ cohorts use social media?" I will be combing the internet for digital use statistics broken down by age or generational categories. The digital revolution is happening at a different pace according to age cohort and I want to understand those differences.

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