Key Takeaways

  • Whether you work with corporations or local governments, nonprofits need a clear understanding of digital tools and modern marketing tactics.

  • Most importantly, you need to create a unique way to tell your organization’s story, including using partner resources to help.

  • As a recap from the Aging in America Conference in New Orleans last month, we'll cover what you can use to help your organization better engage with older adults. 

Caring about the welfare of older adults is not only an American imperative but also an opportunity for companies and organizations to show they understand the needs of this growing demographic. At the Aging in America Conference in New Orleans last month, non-profit organizations in the public health arena used this framing to explore how to better engage with older adults. Here’s some of the highlights!

Seniors’ perception of media impacts your marketing

For seniors, word-of-mouth and familiarity are important factors for trusting what we have to say. Seniors are more likely to get their news from newspapers, local and national television broadcasts, and radio, as opposed to Millenials and stay-at-home moms who turn to social media sources for news. But that doesn’t mean seniors aren’t engaging on digital devices! They spend about $7 billion online each year according to census data. Seniors also respond positively to corporate social responsibility messages. According to Porter Novelli, 79% of seniors say they want companies to act with a purpose and positively impact society, not just make financial profits. That’s an important opportunity for non-profit and community organizations looking to create a following.

Consider straight-forward, fact-based messaging in simple terms. Put your message in places where seniors are most likely to look such as product packaging (if partnering with a corporation selling directly to seniors), newspaper articles, and popular websites. Consider partnering with corporations interested in demonstrating to seniors they are giving back to the community.

Communicate who you are and what you offer

Engaging aging adults in the public sector requires a human-centered, empathy-driven approach, according to Laura Kisailus of Pittsburgh-based Darwin, an independent consulting company. Kisailus cautioned non-profits to use clear, direct language and easy-to-navigate information to engage seniors. She recommends organizations examine who they think they are versus who their target audiences think they are.

Kisailus emphasized the power of storytelling to communicate with older adults. One example is the use of personas that guide visitors through your website and services. One of Kisailus’s clients created “Gwen,” a caregiver to her mom who lives 2 hours away and needs help with day to day needs to continue living on her own safely. Gwen also needs ways to manage her own stress as a caregiver.

Kisailus said it is critical to identify your organization’s priority audience and get to know them through the development of personas and character-building rooted in empathy and anthropology. All of an organization’s activities should have a unifying promise, across the enterprise. “You need to develop content for search terms that real people use,” she said, adding that terms such as “chronic disease self-management classes” don’t resonate with most people. Instead, one of her clients now displays its offerings under new categories such as health, home, and community.

Connecting older adults through technology

A strategy for using communications technology to support older adults was presented by Joel Ackerman, President, CommunO2, and Dona Wishart, Executive Director, Otsego County Commission on Aging (OCCOA). They reported on a pilot program started in 2015 in Otsego County, Michigan, with 14 diverse organization collaborating to add quality and meaning to life for older adults, caregivers and families. Ackerman noted that people will embrace technology if it is compelling, affordable, safe and secure (with privacy elements), and if it is easy to use with available and reliable tech support.

They now have 75 organizations across three Michigan communities using a free app that is helping to change the lives of 5,000 end-users. This model is being evaluated by Michigan State University to replicate, scale, and expand the program’s reach across the state and beyond. The project addresses social isolation through community-based organizations, engaging older adults through technology to help people stay connected and improve quality of life.

Applying what was shared

Non-profits are increasingly relying on partnerships to make their work happen. Whether you work with corporations or local governments, you’ll need a clear understanding of digital tools and modern marketing tactics. Most importantly, you need to create a unique way to tell your organization’s story. Use personas, audience feedback, and partner resources to help.