Americans and Their Gadgets

A study and report by the Pew Internet Research Project from a few years ago, “Americans and Their Gadgets,” provided the inspiration for this article originally. You would suspect the results of the report indicate an ever-growing percentage of Americans now own a cell phone, desktop and laptop computers, MP3 players, game consoles and e-book readers.

Today, “The vast majority of Americans – 97% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own a smartphone is now 85%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011” (Pew Research, “Mobile Fact Sheet,” April 7, 2021).

In terms of major gift fundraising, the assumption is fairly simple. If you had the resources to purchase these convenient devices, wouldn’t you have them? High net worth households are among the highest percentages when it comes to “gadget” ownership.

It makes sense, then, to use these items to communicate your nonprofit mission and your needs for support online whenever possible. Potential donors in the major gift category are using mobile devices of all kinds and clearly, they enjoy using them.

Of course, not all major gift prospects (nor donors of more modest means) are comfortable using mobile devices and social media. I know an elderly donor who still prefers visiting on the telephone, and this donor also prefers the fax for follow-up. Having said that, I know some people who are in younger generations who surprisingly still think social media is a waste of time. But as time moves forward, they are the exceptions.

One important message here is – especially in the case of your most treasured supporters – learn their communication preferences and use them. If they are not on Facebook, don’t think your messages are reaching them on that platform. You may need to call or to write and mail an update.

Having joined Facebook at the suggestion of a highly regarded major gift donor and friend (whose family has graciously awarded some of my past projects more than $1 million in grants), I know social media and new technologies are effective for communication purposes with philanthropists of all capacities. They find them convenient to help manage the goings-on of family, friends and favorite nonprofit projects. The chart below is from “Social Media Fact Sheet” by Pew Research (April 7, 2021).

Nonprofit organizations must be present on social media, and never cease communicating their mission, needs and success stories. You never know who may be reading your information online in order to make knowledgeable, meaningful financial contributions (donors, professional advisors, family and friends of donors, friends of friends, government agencies, and the like).

The trend toward greater use of technology in every aspect of our lives is increasing, and the potential for good far outweighs the bad. I offer a thought for potential donors and educational program organizers in the spirit of partnering toward tech success for those members of society lagging behind. We need more funding and programming for tech education of the most basic sort.

Many still feel left behind by the way technology has taken over our lives. NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network is a user-friendly resource for learning how to use technology more effectively. TechSoup is another nonprofit resource, and it is global in focus. Here in Central Texas, since 2015 I have helped coordinate the activities of the Nonprofit Tech Club Austin. Our aim is to introduce nonprofits to new technologies and techniques that help them accomplish their many worthy missions more effectively.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) maintains web pages focusing on how to use social media, online security, how to conduct video chats and more. Follow this link to a noteworthy AARP article, “Tech Training Helps Build Connections and Confidence in for Older Adults,” which includes a variety of resources. Aging in Place discusses, “How to Become Tech Savvy Seniors in Ten Days” on its website as well.

“Digital inclusion” is an issue society must address not only across the United States, but globally. Technological gadgets like computers, smartphones and the like can be expensive to purchase, as can access to “broadband” or “wireless” services. You might also enjoy reading my post, “Digital Inclusion: As We Race Ahead, Let’s Be Sure No One Is Left Behind.”

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