Getting to the Right Mail Box | Sharpe Group
Posted March 1st, 2013

Getting to the Right Mail Box

Digital communications, software and similar resources are as necessary to business today as was carbon paper when the Sharpe Group was founded in 1963. Today’s world runs on technology. When you depend on it in your day-to-day work, it can all too often seem like everyone else does as well.

However, one major exception should be of special interest to fundraisers. Look closely at your donor email address list. Look at the number of email addresses you have for donors in various age categories. How many addresses do you have for your donors who are over 65? Over 75?

Sharpe consultants have observed consistent data across various types and sizes of nonprofits: Most organizations and institutions have email addresses for only 35 to 40 percent of their donors over age 65. For donors over age 75, just 25 to 30 percent have an email address on file.

This is underscored by a 2012 report, “Older Adults and Internet Use,” published by the Pew Research Center.1 According to the report, Internet use for those age 75 and older was just 34 percent with broadband usage at 21 percent.

In other words, these studies indicate that 65 percent or more of your donors over 75 cannot be reached by email. Overly relying on e-marketing, including sending postcards designed to drive donors to websites for more information, can result in missing out on communication with the bulk of prospects for bequests, gift annuities and many other planned gifts.

The American Council on Gift Annuities (ACGA) reports, for example, that some 81 percent of gift annuitants are over the age of 75. The average age of gift annuitants is 79.2

To underscore the importance of this fact, remember also that as many as 80 percent of bequests come from people who made their final will after age 75. A quick check of your most recent bequests will no doubt verify this.

If you want to reach those donors who are seriously thinking about their last wills or reach those considering gift annuities, email is not necessarily the best way to go.

These donors continue to prefer and respond to what the technology-dependent call snail mail. Does that mean ignoring the latest technology when marketing planned gifts? Certainly not. But it can be costly to ignore traditional means of communication for those still most receptive to it.




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The publisher of Sharpe Insights is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Sharpe Insights may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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