7 Solid Reasons Why You Should Kill Your Printed Planned Giving Newsletter

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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.


kill your printed planned giving newsletterI know, I know… you love your printed planned giving newsletter.

After all, it’s an easy marketing option (especially if you buy them from a vendor who has been creating them for you for decades). And, as they say, once an object is in motion, it stays in motion.
But, when I ask people, “Why do you do it?” they can’t seem to give me good reasons. Instead, they provide vague responses such as:

  • We need to build awareness
  • We need to educate our donors
  • We need to blanket the prospects that have high-planned giving scores

And the best (or worst) of all:

  • We’ve always done it!

For those who are addicted to their “spray and pray” planned giving newsletter, here are 7 solid reasons why you might want to consider retiring the project:

1. They are not part of a truly strategic plan. If your planned giving newsletter IS part of a smart, highly effective strategic plan AND you have been measuring their effectiveness carefully for years, then you should ignore this entire blog post.  But keep in mind that blindly “building awareness” is not a strategic plan. Blindly “blanketing” your donors, or blindly “educating them” is not very strategic either. Rather, these are wishes, hopes and dreams— not strategic initiatives.

2. Their effectiveness is NOT being measured. The measurement of quantifiable results within a certain timeframe is essential for determining effectiveness.Tweet this! Are you measuring their effectiveness? Do you know how to measure their effectiveness? If your strategic goal is to educate your donors, then you probably should survey your donors every year asking the same questions that will determine benchmarks, increases and decreases in the percent of supporters who have achieved a clearly-defined education level. Sound hard? Well, suppose you spend $40,000 on planned giving newsletters. How long and what did it cost to raise that amount of money in the first place? I suggest you consider that before “spraying and praying” with yet another planned giving newsletter.

3. They are expensive. If you are printing them, you know that printing is expensive. Postage is expensive. Inkjetting addresses on them is expensive. Why not include a survey in the next one to determine if enough people are actually reading them to justify the expense? Or, better yet, include a mail-back reply that gives people the opportunity to opt-out. If they don’t want ’em, why keep sending ’em? Wouldn’t it be better to cull your list down to just the people who truly want to receive them? In marketing, we call these folks “subscribers”. And, subscriber readership is always more valuable than non-subscriber readership. Newspapers across the country either do or don’t have subscribers. Of course, the ones that have subscribers can charge much more for their advertising space because the advertisers know their ads have a better chance of actually being seen.

4. They harm the environment. Take a guess… what percent of your prospects are reading your printed newsletters? 1%? 5%? 15%? How many of your newsletters get thrown away instantly? 99%? 95%? 85%? If only 5% get read, then the energy used to print 95% of them is wasted. The gas the post office uses to deliver 95% of them is wasted. And so on…  Plus, what about all the trash you are creating. Oh my! If yours is an environmental organization, what message might you be sending to your loyal donors?

5. They scare people into avoidance. Most planned giving newsletters focus a lot on death and taxes. The copy is often absent meaningful emotional messages that deliver true value to the donor experience. Instead, the copy is frequently downright scary— reminding donors about death and the IRS. Trust me on this, people avoid those subjects. Don’t you? Instead, people prefer to think about life. They like to think about the meaning of their lives and how they can have a positive impact on future generations. Sadly, most planned giving newsletters don’t focus on these topics at all.

6. They are very similar to one another. My mother in-law (now 72 years old) once showed me three planned giving newsletters she received over a relatively short period of time from three different charities. To her, they all looked and sounded very similar.. In fact, I think all of them might have been developed by the same vendor. How insulting is that? Donors want to feel special, don’t they?

7. Most of your planned givers never got them. One of our clients (a very well-known nature conservation organization) once told me that 83% of their planned gifts come from people who were never in their database and never received a printed newsletter. Eighty-three percent is a high number. I don’t know if that number applies to you but the point I’m making is this: If you’ve been sending planned giving newsletters for 10 years (for example), you should be seeing some kind of proof that most of your planned givers today had actually been receiving your newsletters. Are you seeing that to be the case?

Bottom line: I think printed planned giving newsletters have the potential to do just as much harm than good (if not more).  I beg you to take a close look at what you might be doing TO your supporters and make changes accordingly. If you take the time to do them right (or hire a vendor who knows how to do them right), you should definitely keep sending them out. Otherwise… KILL ‘EM!
Want to see how MarketSmart does it? Drop me a line and I’ll show you.

SEE ALSO:

>> If you’re asking yourself whether or not direct mail is dead, then you’re asking the wrong question

3 responses to “7 Solid Reasons Why You Should Kill Your Printed Planned Giving Newsletter”

  1. Cathie Wright says:

    We have a group of Planned Gift prospects for whom we do not have an email address. These prospects need something to keep us top of mind; whether it be a newsletter, a survey, a postcard…. we can’t just ignore them because they don’t have or don’t share an email address.

    • marketsmart says:

      True. True! You don’t want to ignore your donors. Printed newsletters are great for keeping them involved and informed.
      But if your newsletter was NOT part of a strategic plan (#1 on the list), then you’d definitely want to kill it.
      Having said that, you still might want to consider killing it if #s 2 – 7 apply to your situation.

  2. Mike says:

    Greg.
    I couldn’t agree with you more! Your process of email surveys and our process of showing folks how to self direct tax liabilities from the IRS to charities are home runs! Our 90+ nonprofit clients are raising $2-$5 million per year in new planned gifts with an average ROI of $75:$1

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