So who here likes ads? Anyone? Bueller? While most people generally dislike ads, they do have a profound effect on people’s purchasing behavior (whether they like to admit it or not).

One of the key ways that companies make ads work is that they are very, very good at targeting the right ad at the right audience. When was the last time you saw a Red Bull commercial during a Golden Girls marathon? The good folks at Red Bull know better than to pitch an ad of a guy sky diving from space to someone who wants to know what mischief Rose, Blanche, and the gang are going to get into.

Smaller nonprofits, however, are traditionally bad at this. Many organizations exercise little or no thought into how to effectively segment their constituency, and as a result waste a ton of time and money on people with almost no hope of conversion. There are tomes of information regarding theories and strategies for the most effective segmentation practices, but segmenting based on age is one extremely simple way to improve the response rate of your communications.

Your asks are all about striking the right chord with your donors to get them to be passionate about your cause and want to be part of it. Language and cultural references that inspire your Baby Boomers are likely to do absolutely nothing for the twenty-somethings in your constituency. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But time and time again, organizations send the exact same letters and emails to everyone. It’s like trying to sell denture cream to a college kid.

A Practical Example

Let’s say you are an organization dedicated to cancer research and you want to draw attention to someone famous who died of cancer. Here are three segments that you might consider:

  • Under 40: Talk about Steve Jobs, what he accomplished and how he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
  • 40-55: Maybe talk about Patrick Swayze and how he showed his tender side in Dirty Dancing but his more rugged side in Road House.
  • 55 and up: A story about how Charlton Heston survived the Planet of the Apes, but not prostate cancer might make a bigger impact with this group.

Tap into the cultural references for these age groups that helped to define who they are. If you attempt to send a college student the letter about Charlton Heston, you’re more likely to illicit the response of “Charlton Who?” rather than a donation. But if you can get them thinking about Steve Jobs, they’ll be more likely to pull out their iPad and engage with you.

Communications (especially direct mail) can be very time consuming and expensive, so it’s important to do what you can in order to maximize their impact. There are a thousand different ways you can do this, but age is a simple yet powerful tool to have in your arsenal. The world’s most successful companies have used that tool effectively for years – it’s about time you start using it too!

Rob Signorelli

Rob Signorelli

Co-Founder at Bloomerang
Rob Signorelli is Co-Founder of Bloomerang.