Why old people are more likely to give

Wonder why it’s such a struggle to get young donors? A couple of studies done at UC Berkeley offer some intriguing explanations for the problem. Press release: Emotional intelligence peaks as we enter our 60s, research suggests.

Two different studies support the theory that “emotional intelligence and cognitive skills can actually sharpen as we enter our 60s.” Findings included:


  • Older people … were the best at reinterpreting negative scenes in positive ways using positive reappraisal, a coping mechanism that draws heavily on life experience and lessons learned.
  • … younger and middle-aged participants were better at using “detached appraisal” to tune out and divert attention away from the unpleasant….
  • “In late life, individuals often become increasingly sensitized to sadness because the shared experience of sadness leads to greater intimacy in interpersonal relationships.”

All these things bode well for charitable giving. Thank about it: Who’s more likely to give — someone who interprets a negative situation as an opportunity to make something good happen, or someone who tunes it out? Who is more likely to act compassionately and generously — someone who feels that sadness of a bad situation, or someone who doesn’t?

That doesn’t mean younger people don’t give. It just points out something experienced fundraisers already know: Older people are just more primed to give than younger people. The neurological cards are stacked against you if you’re looking for young donors.

Thanks to queer ideas for the tip.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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