The Second Worst Marketing Mistake

Marketing Concepts

Of all the marketing mistakes I’ve seen nonprofits make in planned giving marketing, perfectionism is the second-worst. (The first-worst is not doing any marketing at all.)

When marketing campaigns are subject to approval from a perfectionist, all efforts take a back seat. If you wonder why your planned giving program is inching along at a snail’s pace, perfectionism might be the problem.

Here are three areas in marketing that often get bogged down by perfectionism:


Nonprofits with limited staff and tight budgets think their newsletter needs to win a graphic design award. It doesn’t.


Planned giving perfectionists take an enticing tagline — “Don’t let the bank plan your legacy,” for example — and analyze it to death, adding disclaimers and legal language until the catchy one-liner turns into a yawn-inducing paragraph. 


Okay, so you have a limited budget. So your board doesn’t see “marketing” as something worth investing in. Welcome to the club! Just because you don’t have the budget you wish you did, doesn’t let you off the hook. Don’t wait for the perfect budget to move forward. That’s a huge planned giving marketing mistake.

Actual Case in Point

I recall when my marketing firm developed a planned giving marketing postcard for a major university. The development staff decided to run the concept by a tenured professor. Big mistake. The professor completely re-wrote the card. He made it softer than a newborn’s tushie and so vanilla that it would not raise a single eyebrow (but would win a Pulitzer Prize). That is, he made it “safe.” Your local supermarket coupons get more attention than that rewritten postcard. Worse: the solicitation letter from the nonprofit next door …

The planned giving team felt safe. They sent out the professor’s version. ROI? Zero.

People in certain professions are generally regarded as “smart.” Fine. But smart in what? Grammar? Physics? Fixing cars? Brewing the best coffee in the world? Each profession has its place.

Sure, tenured professors are smart. (So are MDs, CPAs, and JDs.) But marketing is not their profession. And they have a bad habit of reinventing the wheel. There’s something to be said about tried and true. Marketers get it. Academics don’t.

People often refer to my team and I as being “in the planned giving business.” No, we are not. We are in the planned giving marketing business.

PS: I used a similar concept for another client’s postcard campaign. They trusted the marketing experts, sent it out as we wrote it, and — big surprise — got results.

All of our blogs, products and services are proudly conceived, created, reviewed, and disseminated by real humans — not A.I. (artificial “intelligence.”)

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