This rings even more true now than it did four years ago. Almost all of your donors are online in the 21st Century … and if you’re not there to meet them, they’ll find a nonprofit that is. Stop missing out on transformational gifts and get your planned giving program online today.
An Opinion From a Planned Giving Officer
The other day a colleague from another nonprofit, a fairly small one, told me he was leaning away from spending money on a new planned giving website.
While surprising, this is not the first development person I’ve heard struggle with this decision. They have their reasons:
- limited budget
- consultants who advise allocating funds elsewhere
- the never-ending priority for current cash
- trustees/directors who want to see metrics that websites can’t deliver
However, for an organization trying to build their endowment, a planned giving website is not an add-on to your marketing plan. It’s the hub. A planned giving website is a must.
Ten years ago, I left residential real estate and came to work in planned giving at Furman University.
In the corporate world, every respectable institution had a good, current website. I couldn’t fathom tackling my task of using planned gifts to build Furman’s endowment without a website. A website gives you instant credibility. It makes you look like you know what you’re doing. It gives salespeople (or, in my situation, fundraisers) a place to direct “customers” to useful information. It’s a safe place for shy, privacy-seeking or “silent” donors to poke around and get their questions answered without having to deal with a face-to-face conversation. It’s like going into a store and not wanting to be bothered by pesky salespeople.
In my first year on the job, I looked around at other top colleges’ planned giving websites and quickly saw that many of the ones I liked were using a vendor called VirtualGiving.com (they are now PlannedGiving.com). During my research I found their planned giving websites to be the most user-friendly and donor-centric. They also blended seamlessly into the main university’s website.
That was nine years ago. Since then, I’ve put our website address on every item that I send out from the planned giving office. Everyone who donates to Furman, for example, receives an insert in the envelope with their gift receipt that includes a short, folksy, testimonial-style planned giving message and an invitation to visit our website, with the web address.
All About the Timing
Here’s one of the major challenges we face as planned giving officers: often the board and/or the Director/VP want metrics. How many people made a planned gift last year because of the website? Answer: “No idea”.
There’s no way we’ll ever know that metric. Planned giving is much more nebulous than that. You rarely can put your finger on the exact reason someone finally decides to put a charity in his or her will. That’s why we subscribe to the “21 touches” philosophy (which we got from the planned giving marketing specialist Viken Mikaelian).
We gently “touch” our prospects 21+ times with different varieties of planned gift messaging so a planned gift seed is planted in their mind. It’s a timing issue. When the time is right for a person to go to their lawyer to get their financial and personal affairs in order, if we’ve done our job, a potential planned gift will be an option that they will entertain.
We gently “touch” our prospects 21+ times with different varieties of planned gift messaging so a planned gift seed is planted in their mind.
Visibility is Key
There’s no getting around the simple fact that we’re living in a digital world. Even your oldest prospects are online these days—they’re connecting with friends and family on social media; getting news from their favorite network’s website; and learning more about the causes they love by visiting them online.
All this is to say that in the 21st Century, your nonprofit needs to be online if you want to reach your donors—and that includes your planned giving program. Donors and prospects will be looking for information on gift plans, your nonprofit’s current and future needs; your legacy society; upcoming events, and inspirational stories from other donors.
And no matter how big or small your organization, if you don’t have that information readily available for them, they’ll assume you’re not serious about your mission and move on. In short: Yes, you need a planned giving website.