How aging changes the brain, and why that matters to fundraisers

Two basic truths every fundraiser should keep in mind all the time:

  1. We are talking almost entirely to older people.
  2. Emotion is what persuades people to give, not facts.

And these two truths are tightly intertwined.

Here’s how, from Engage:Boomers, at What We’ve Learned About Marketing To Baby Boomers:

As we approach midlife (40+), we increasingly draw on right brain functions.

That’s right: as we age, the way we use our brains changes.

This is one of the things that makes fundraising hard: Many fundraisers are younger — still in the left-brain phase of life. If you’re that age, the things that persuade you tend to be interesting facts and solid arguments. Emotional fundraising seems like utter pap, ridiculously unpersuasive.

Now there’s a bit of an illusion here: What you consciously think will persuade you is not the same thing as what actually does persuade you in real life. Even pre-midlife brain-shift people are more emotion-driven than they think they are.

Main point: for fundraising to work, it needs to aim at the heart. That’s true for all donors. It’s emphatically true for the main group of donors — people aged 60 and up.

The secret to success if you’re under 50: Don’t work to persuade yourself. Be consciously aware of what works … and create emotional fundraising messages, even if they seem “off” to you.


Comments

2 responses to “How aging changes the brain, and why that matters to fundraisers”

  1. Thanks for the helpful information Jeff. Also a great reminder that “we” (fundraisers of all ages) are not the audience – our donors and prospects are!

  2. Thanks for the helpful information Jeff. Also a great reminder that “we” (fundraisers of all ages) are not the audience – our donors and prospects are!

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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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