Online will planning is the latest tool in the fundraiser’s arsenal — and it’s taking over the internet by storm as more and more nonprofits realize what a powerful add-on it can be. Freewill, our own LegacyPlanner™, Nonprofit Docs, LegalZoom, and a host of others are competing for fundraisers’ attention.
But while online will planners are definitely boosting endowments and bringing in new donors, it’s important to remember that this relatively new tool is a supplement, not a replacement, for your planned giving web page and overall marketing approach.
It’s understandable that fundraisers are excited about online will planning’s potential. After all, the numbers are already showing a significant uptick in related bequests at nonprofits that have integrated an online will planner into their existing planned giving website.
But it’s important to also temper that excitement with a dose of reality: An effective, successful planned giving program is more than just bequests, requires a multi-channel approach to marketing and outreach. That means a combination of digital and print touch pieces; active stewardship efforts that include thank-you letters, phone calls and in-person visits; a dynamic legacy society; and an easy-to-find, SEO-rich, donor-centric planned giving web page that makes it easy for prospects to find the best way to give.
Bequests are a nice benefit of online will planning, but they’re just that: a benefit — and a fringe one at that.
Online Will Planning: Good for Bequests but not for Complicated Planned Gifts
Even though bequests make up the majority of planned gifts, they’re truly just the tip of the iceberg. An online will planner is not the place to structure a complicated gift of real estate, trust, donor advised fund, or other gift forms available to your planned giving program. Your prospects need a comprehensive website that shows them the benefits of various ways of giving.
Then they can share that information with their lawyer or financial advisor when they’re ready to include you in their philanthropic plans.
A Question of Legitimacy
There are other important reasons not to ditch your planned giving website, and other marketing tools, of course.
Savvy philanthropists search to see if a cause they’re interested in has a planned giving program and web page. Planned giving is a sign of legitimacy; a signal that you’re preparing not just for day-to-day expenses, but the future of your mission. By substituting an online will planner for a planned giving website, you’re sending a signal to serious prospects (including those of higher wealth) that you’re not interested in more complicated gift forms—and by extension, their money.
A comprehensive plannedgiving.com website also has another important donor magnet: built-in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is what makes it possible for prospects to find you in the first place. When prospects or supporters search for your name and “planned giving” (or a related term), your page will pop up near the top of the list. From there, they’ll be able to find exactly what they need to remember your organization with a potentially game-changing legacy gift.
We get it — LegacyPlanner™ is an exciting, powerful new online will planning tool. It is the only online planner that offers seamless integration, a simple way for donors to give, and even helps supporters get their affairs properly in order, for free. We’re absolutely thrilled to be able to offer it to our clients. But as any mechanic will tell you, it takes an entire box full of tools to do the job properly. A hammer won’t cut it when you need a wrench or a screwdriver.
Please don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the shiny new trend at the expense of your planned giving program. Our mission is to help you succeed—and you can’t do that with just LegacyPlanner™ alone, no matter how powerful our online will planning tool is at bringing in bequests.