If you’re looking for ideas or planned giving marketing trends on how to launch or refresh a gift planning program, then read our 21 tips by Viken Mikaelian. If you wish to learn how the gift vehicles work, read brief descriptions of each gift vehicle, along with videos and typical donor profiles.
To begin, you’ll need to do three things:
Next, get a copy of our Planned Giving Pocket Guide or subscribe to The Planned Giving Wiki. Read What is Planned Giving to learn how planned gifts work, as well as some of the challenges your peers are facing right now.
The links above cover the most common problems and solutions nonprofits face with marketing planned gifts. Our downloads and tools are resources that will help you as well.
Just remember: Planned giving is a people business. If you love people, you’ll raise more money than you have ever imagined. And it’s good for your career, too.
Ready? Let’s start and see what these strategies and marketing tips are and how to use them.
You have a limited budget but you need to do some serious outreach.Reach out to your donors using your existing internal media first. This is true for all nonprofits, from the large state university to the small hometown hospice. And most of this marketing costs nothing. So make sure you have a planned giving message in your:
What to say? Begin with a small display ad and short elevator pitches wherever you can squeeze them. (“A gift that costs nothing during your lifetime.”)
*See right column. A typical email signature line such as “Visit us at the Foundation” will never get clicked. So use our compelling email signature lines (or write your own) and make sure everyone in your office uses them in their email correspondence. Place these lines (we call them “elevator pitches”) between your name and address, not way below your address. Have each line link to a specific page on your planned giving website. Get creative with these lines and have some fun: Make a gift that costs nothing during your lifetime; Giving stock could be more beneficial than giving cash; You can donate your home, get a deduction, and continue to live there for life; Make a gift and receive guaranteed income for life.
Your direct mail is beginning to look like junk mail.
Sorry, but it is. No matter how creative you get, no matter how hard you try to get your juices flowing, your mailers are still junk mail… to your prospects, that is.Junk Mail works. Avoid being too critical of your work or trying to ensure each and every piece you send out is perfect. Nothing is perfect. You get opinions and advice, and you re-write stuff 20 times over until it is “right.” Then, you give it to a tenured professor who knows nothing about marketing, and he re-writes it in perfect English until it’s vanilla. You finally mail it… after you’ve blown three deadlines and missed phone calls from eight prospects.
Nothing happens. Worse? Not even a complaint. If you send out 10,000 planned giving brochures and do not hear at least 100 complaints, your mailers are going right into the trash. Sorry for the honesty, but it’s true.
Two things you should do:
Your boss or someone on your board is pushing you to do a planned giving newsletter, and you have heard and know in your gut that planned giving newsletters are ineffective and passé. This happens over and over again. Even worse, you have a friend at the nonprofit next door and a vendor pushing you to do a planned giving newsletter.Just say no unless you have the resources to do it right. Even then, is the ROI worth it? Let them know reputable consultants advise against it. Explain this to your team:
Remember the friend from the friend from the nonprofit next door with three enamored board members who are having an ego trip over a single planned giving newsletter? The one who is also blindly ignoring 98% of their constituency? Don’t let him fool you. It’s easy to get entangled within your closed loop.
These can also be considered junk mail unless they are done right. And most envelopes from the outside cry junk mail.Here are some pointers:
Your boss is shouting “budget, budget, budget” and pushing you to use electronic communications for your outreach. Save paper and stamps, he says.We once received an annual report that asked the reader to go online to download a list of donors who supported the organization. Pooh. Let the reader go online and download P&L statements and fancy financial bar charts, but donor names should come in print. One of our clients, a school in Dallas, begins their donor list on the cover of its magazine. Not on page 82 in 8-point type. On the cover!
Educate your boss with these pointers:
You’ve followed what others are doing: gift planning direct mail, postcards and solicitation letters. Great. But you know there are other venues you should tap into but just can’t think of any.Here are some ideas. Perhaps not all are suited for you, but this is a good start:
Say you have been doing bequest marketing heavily, and people start requesting information. They need your formal name… bequest language … even the address! And you have nothing to send out.The solution to your bequest marketing (or any planned giving marketing) dilemma is easy. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Whether you are marketing remainder trusts and unitrusts or simple beneficiary designations, consider having a planned giving website. And make sure the link to your web pages is obvious and easy to find for your donors.Your prospects need to understand that a deferred gift annuity helps them save for retirement and support your mission. Or that a charitable bargain sale is the only gift planning tool that gives you a lump sum of cash and a charitable tax deduction. Or whether to even consider gifts of real estate as a smart move for their situation.
You’ve tried to create a planned giving website yourself and discovered it looks lame compared to other nonprofit sites. You wonder why? It’s the difference between getting your car washed and getting it detailed. It’s the difference between a simple shirt and one that’s tailored. It’s the difference between an apple pie from the grocery store and the one your grandma made.
Then you realize the websites you like were created by a planned giving website partner such as PlannedGiving.Com, and you think that you can’t afford it.
Can’t afford a website? Look at our microsites for the small charity. With a rush fee you can even have one delivered overnight, still significantly less than you think.
We provide customized planned giving websites that speak to prospects. Yes, we work with the Harvards of the world and deliver high-end products. But we also specialize with smaller shops and deliver exceptional affordable products as well.
Because our mission is to support you and your mission. Whether you are a large university, a private school, a hospital or healthcare system, an animal shelter or a zoo, we can create an appropriate, affordable planned giving website that meets your needs.
If you are still hesitating to move forward with a planned giving website, at least place our gift plan audio files on your giving pages. You can get these audio files for free, here.
You have a planned giving website. Great. But you have no visitors.
It’s amazing how many clients complain to us that no one is visiting their planned giving website. It’s like calling your local phone company and complaining that no one is calling you.Imagine if your boss says, “We just got this great phone system, but no one is calling us! We need to get a better system.” Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
Phone systems are taken for granted as they have been around for 100 years. Planned giving websites are much newer. But they work the same way. You need to:
Sound like a lot of work? Not really. The good news is that once all of the above is done, it will all be on autopilot. Are you a small shop? We can help. Consider Beneficiary Designations Toolkit – it covers all of this and more.
This is a simple, esoteric tip, so we kept it for last.
You have a small nonprofit with a lot of foot traffic and zero budget. This applies to only a handful of nonprofits, so feel free to skip this step if that’s not you.
We’ve already covered what you can do with zero budget. Now, here’s a simple, powerful tool for a handful of nonprofits that has proven to work. It’s so simple, so cheap and so “mindless” that it is easy to overlook.Assume you are a retirement community. You have a dining room, possibly a few.
Invest $75 at Staples and create a nice-sized easel with a nice-sized, foam-core sign with large type that reads:
Do not clutter the signs with disclaimers and qualifiers as attorneys recommend. That’s a downhill slope. Just whet people’s appetites. You can discuss the details later.
People, especially seniors, love receiving a guaranteed paycheck for life. Many establish multiple charitable gift annuities.
Whether you are teaching your prospects about bequests, gifts of life insurance or gifts of stock, simple marketing like this can attract interest and lead you towards closing a planned gift.
A friend of ours at St. Mary’s University has a voicemail that goes, “Hi this is Mike. To leave a message, press the # key. Did you know you can make a gift to St. Mary’s with a gift that costs nothing during your lifetime? Here’s how it works …”
Share With Your Board
An actual piece sent to my dad from Thomas Jefferson University.
Everything says it was done by hand. Of course it got opened. And read. Clever.
Exactly what we profess.
Don’t make them worse. Note how the signature line is prominent on the right with an elevator pitch. Get your message across first, not your address. Your donor knows your address.
Solicitation letters can get boring, too. But they don’t have to.
Use a freelance writer with a fresh eye. Those with advertorial experience are best.
(Download before and after sample.)