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Articles > Building Your Community > Engaging older alumni: The round up

Engaging older alumni: The round up

Highlights from the recent webinar 'Engaging older alumni', hosted by Jenny Robertson, Director of Silver Marketing

A recent report from ToucanTech showed that silver donors came to the rescue in 2020, increasing their donation per person, where donations per person from other age groups had declined. In the 64 UK schools analysed in this research, over 70s gave an average of £8000 per donor, and other research* supports this, showing that than half of all charity donations came from over 60s*. Engaging your older alumni isn’t just important for donations; older alumni will also give back in time through mentoring, volunteering for your cause and sharing the word with others. 

Jenny Robertson, Director of Silver Marketing with over 10 years of experience in school development, marketing and communications, hosted a webinar on segmenting, communicating and engaging with the over 50s. Here are the key takeaways and tips she shared!

Why are over 50s more likely to donate?
Over 50s have been broadly more sheltered from the global economic effects of COVID-19, and have a higher disposable income thanks to final salary pensions, free higher education and becoming mortgage-free in later life. They typically tend to recognise their fortune and want to give back to the younger generations, and are socially engaged within their communities. 

Segmenting the over 50s

Treating the over 50s as one big group will give a vastly limited view of this audience; each age group is bucking trends from the over 90s as the fastest growing group of marathon runners, to more over 70s in full or part time work than ever before. By considering the different life stages and habits of each age group, 

However, it’s important not to segment by age group alone. Instead, breaking down age groups alongside other demographic and psychographic data will help to form a better picture of your over 50s audience. A simplified segmentation approach could be to start to consider how your audience members align with one of the three profiles below, each of whom will react differently and have different motivations and levels of engagement with your organisation.

Profile 1:

This person is still working, therefore busy & active but time poor. Your organisation may serve as part of a large social and professional network, and this person is individual and independent. While this person might not have much time to give back at this stage of their life, they might donate, and keeping them engaged will be useful for the future.

Profile 2:

This person is retired, but still seeking professional recognition or engagement. They might have more time but a busy social life, so creating an environment for them to connect with others is important to draw them in. They might want to volunteer as a mentor or a guest speaker to share their experiences with the next generation.

Profile 3:

This person may have a smaller social network, of which your organisation could play an important role. They may be looking to occupy their time, but could need support in finding ways to do this, so opening up a variety of ways to engage with your organisation will be worthwhile; for example, sending a regular email newsletter, or inviting them to relevant events. 

Segmentation in practice

Using flexi-groups and dynamic user groups is a good way to ensure that your segmentation remains relevant and up-to-date as this group moves through different life stages. You can use segmentation to improve the way you conduct event design, content marketing campaigns and fundraising. 

Communication tips to take away

While you can adapt your tone of voice and message for each segment, it’s handy to keep a few general rules for communicating with this age group in order to build trust with your organisation and encourage your audience to take a next step. 

Written communication 

Take care with style and grammar; it’s best to play it safe with a more formal tone and avoid young abbreviations and jargon. Present your facts clearly and provide details for those who might want to read more - a good way to make your written communications work for your different segments is to provide a good summary at the start, and then present more detail for those who have the time to read more. 

Visual style

Using aspirational imagery, but be mindful to show real experiences and avoid stock photos. Don’t be afraid to share more ‘fun’ images, 

Verbal communication

Verbal communication should be clear and adult-to-adult in tone, imitating the tone, speed and voice of your audience. By listening carefully and asking them questions about themselves, you can build a rapport and develop a relationship. Following up with an email or letter is good practice and will help to remind them of the next step they can take.


Accessibility should be front-of-mind when managing an event with an older audience. From timing your event, to planning parking and seating, consider how this will affect more vulnerable members of your community. It’s also worth giving lots of notice for your events - often, older alumni will take lots of holidays during term time!

Engaging your older alumni is worthwhile for any development office, so ensure that your opportunities and messaging hit the mark. Contact ToucanTech to find out how we can help to build engaged digital communities. 


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