Writing Exceptional Emails for Planned Giving Donors

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An enormous shift is coming with the upcoming generational wealth transfer from baby boomers to Gen X and millennials. Suddenly, a new generation of people will be considering how to invest their wealth and plan their legacy. This segment of donors is also a highly digital-literate or digital native generation, for the first time ever.

Post-pandemic donors are responding to email at a greater rate than ever before. Savvy fundraisers can use this digital momentum to capture an emerging source of tremendous potential: planned giving donors.

Consider adopting these email marketing strategies to get the most out of your planned giving campaign.

Use a Story

Storytelling should be the place you start for all of your nonprofit marketing campaigns. Appeals rely on building an emotional connection, so storytelling is a natural tool to use. Hunt for stories within your current list of planned giving donors or from someone who benefits from a planned gift. Our experience shows that donor stories create second-time gifts and motivate others to give. If you do not have the time to interview and write your donor stories, use our services instead. It is not as easy as one may think, and it is time-consuming to interview donors and write their stories.

Planned giving can present a unique challenge for marketing, unlike major donor fundraising or annual appeals. The unspoken message of planned giving is that a death must occur for a gift to be fully realized. So where do we go from here?

Instead of focusing on the legacy of a former donor as a source for your storytelling, feature a current donor. Planned giving donors demonstrate a meaningful commitment and connection to your organization that must be celebrated while they are still alive.

Sit down with a planned giving donor to understand their motivation to connect their enduring legacy to your mission. These conversations often unearth a meaningful donor story about how much your nonprofit means to them. Having someone communicate why they chose your organization to help them live on is a powerful message.

What if you are just getting started on your planned giving strategy, and you don’t yet have a pool of planned giving donors from which to share a story? Find someone who may benefit from the planned gift and share their story instead.

All meaningful fundraising campaigns contain a compelling case for support. This is the quantified, real-world reason why you are asking for donations in the first place. Maybe your planned giving campaign will establish a scholarship endowment or help build a new building.

Connect stories from the people you serve to the possibilities the planned giving donors could unlock. This will help your donors quickly establish an emotional connection with your request. Then incorporate those stories into your email marketing strategy.

Make Giving Options Clear

One of the biggest hurdles in planned giving is the confusion associated with these types of gifts. Donors believe they have to hire a lawyer before even considering any planned gift to your nonprofit.

Take the time to understand the planned gifts your nonprofit can realistically accept. Consult with your organization’s lawyer to understand if you are able to accept bequests, life insurance or retirement policies, or charitable gift annuities.

If you don’t already have a gift acceptance policy, be sure to develop one with your board of directors. This will help you avoid uncomfortable situations with your donors where you realize you don’t have the capacity to accept complicated planned gifts like plots of land.

When drafting a planned giving email marketing campaign, consider dedicating a single email to one gift vehicle you can accept. Emails should always include links to the planned giving pages on your website that are accurate and up-to-date. 

Include contact information on your website for the person who handles planned gifts at your organization. Donors often like a lot of communication when setting up a planned gift, so be ready to provide excellent customer service for interested prospects.

Add a ‘Save the Date’

As previously mentioned, planned giving can hold a macabre undertone. You can alleviate these feelings by adding an invitation to an event in your planned giving email.

By scheduling an in-person event, you will help bring your message to life. Planned giving donors want to be able to picture their legacy. One great way to do this is by committing to creating social activities for your planned giving donors on a regular basis.

Consider quarterly or twice-annual gatherings to get started. Incorporate ways for donors to connect more deeply with the organization and get their questions answered like site visits, facility tours, or program exhibitions. These are also fantastic low-cost or no-cost ways to establish a thriving pool of planned giving prospects. Invite your organization’s legal representation so donors can conveniently schedule follow-ups as needed.


Reach the emerging audience of planned giving donors at your nonprofit with a well-planned email marketing strategy. Like any donor relationship, build an emotional connection with your audience through high-quality storytelling and include an event invitation to build on the momentum.

Before you send any planned giving email, be sure you are fully educated on all of the gift types you can accept at your organization. Draft or update your gift acceptance policy with your board of directors and consult with your attorney for a solid foundation to your planned giving program.

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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