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7 Legacy Gift Marketing Strategies… But Which One Works Best?

Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

Do you know which one of these 7 legacy gift marketing strategies works best for your fundraising and planned giving efforts?
Every marketing effort should start with a solid strategy. That includes legacy gift marketing! But, sadly, most fundraisers jump right into tactics without sitting down to develop a strategy that is sure to provide the best results.
Here are the legacy gift marketing strategies I’ve seen flying around for quite some time— followed by the one I have found works best.
Strategy #1: Based on “life-stage” 
Helps prospects identify the right gift based on their age/life-stage. This strategy fails to recognize that most donors simply want to avoid the thought of planning for their death. Jumping right into life-stage planning ideas assumes your supporter is ready to make a decision yet most are not. Most aren’t even aware that a legacy gift is something they should or could consider. You need to build awareness, interest and desire before you can start presenting life-stage solutions.
Strategy #2: Based on gift benefits  
Helps prospects navigate the decision-making process based on the gift that benefits them most. Again, this strategy assumes that most people want to contemplate their own demise and will jump at the chance to play with gift calculators online. While we go along with our clients’ requests to include gift calculators on their websites, we have watched those same calculators sit idle for years— usually providing weak results (at best).
Strategy # 3: Based on demographics 
Targeted messages are sent based on age, wealth, presence of children, lifestyle (LGBT), etc. This strategy ignores the “why” of legacy giving. Just because someone is wealthy, old and has no children doesn’t mean they are at all interested in supporting your organization after their lifetime. Again, you need to build awareness, interest and desire first. But there’s usually one exception. If you are promoting CGA’s you’ll certainly want to target older prospects.
Strategy #4: Based on predictive models  
Messages are sent only to prospects based on frequency of gifts, recency of gifts, age and other modeled “predictors”. This strategy fails to take into account that anywhere from 40% to 80% of an organization’s legacy dollars will likely be realized from people that never donated. It misses quite a large pool of prospects. Also, isn’t predicting really just guessing? There are better ways to determine interest for legacy giving options among your supporters.
Strategy # 5:  Based on 7 archetypes  
Messages are developed based on a current supporter’s archetype including: the devout, the communitarian, the investor, the socialite, the altruist, the re-payer, and the dynast. Just because someone is religious or seeks notoriety (for example) does not necessarily mean they are a worthwhile target for your legacy gift marketing. This is another strategy that might work after you’ve gotten past the awareness, interest and desire stages of the decision-making process.
Strategy #6: Based on life circumstances
Donors change their estate plans for many reasons including loss of a spouse, illness, religious epiphanies and others. But, since it’s nearly impossible for you to know when these life circumstances will occur, it’s also impossible to develop a marketing strategy based on the occurrence of these events.
 
My recommended strategy
Strategy # 7: Based on consideration stage
Messages should be sent to prospects based on their consideration stage. For instance, a loyal frequent supporter may not even be aware that a legacy gift is a possibility. Therefore, awareness campaigns should be developed to ensure that every supporter (including Facebook visitors, website visitors, event attendees, etc.) realize that a legacy gift is something they can do and should consider. Other stages include the “interest stage”, the “desire stage”, and the “decision-making stage”. Smart marketers have been employing consideration stage marketing strategies since the late 1800’s because it works. It’s simply the best way to do it— hands down. Don’t get confused by alternative legacy gift marketing strategies that sound good but don’t work.
To learn about more legacy gift marketing strategies that will be sure to help your efforts, download our 77 Bare-Knuckle Marketing Strategies eBook.

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2 responses to “7 Legacy Gift Marketing Strategies… But Which One Works Best?”

  1. Greg W.,
    Thanks for this great survey and summary of marketing approaches. I agree that #7 is the best way to identify legacy giving prospects … long term supporters with a heart connection.

  2. Greg W.,
    Thanks for this great survey and summary of marketing approaches. I agree that #7 is the best way to identify legacy giving prospects … long term supporters with a heart connection.

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