Believe in "The Fantastic Four" if you want to market planned gifts the right way

When it comes to marketing planned gifts, always remember that you want your supporters to think about how they can find meaning in their lives by leaving a gift to your charity. 

Here are “The Fantastic Four”— Four ways to help your supporters get past the avoidance response that usually gets triggered when they receive end-of-life messages. These are also known as death messages. The following is based on research from my pal Dr. Russell James.

  1. Help them visualize their life story while realizing how their mission aligns with your organization’s mission  [Visualized autobiography]
  2. Facilitate an experience that allows them to see themselves as the hero in their own life story [Autobiographical heroism]
  3. Enable them to feel that they can live on in the hearts and minds of others [Symbolic immortality]
  4. Provide a way for them to honor, pay tribute to or recognize others [Commemorative immortality]

Feel free to post a link to this blog post in order to start a discussion on LinkedIn or industry group websites.

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Joshua Karlin
9 years ago

I usually find your posts clear, easy to follow, and filled with valuable info. This time I’m a bit stuck.
Please expound on #2. Sounds like jargon. Just words, perhaps academic ones, gleaned from the professor. Not making sense to me. “facilitate an experience” what does that mean? “the hero in their own life story” huh?

9 years ago

Good question Josh. You might want to watch Dr. James’ Webinar to understand further.
But here’s some explanation to help you out:
People buy or donate because they want to receive benefits.
The benefits people get from being philanthropic vary for each individual. Here’s a great list:
When it comes to the first item on the list (ego/self-esteem), that means that people want to see themselves as good, just, righteous, etc. In other words, they want to be heroic. They want to change the world. They want to feel like they have the power to make the world a better place. They want to be a hero. And they want to reflect on their life (their autobiography) knowing that they were the hero in that story.
If you can help them be that hero… If you find ways to facilitate that… If you provide experiences that help them… you will inspire them to make a legacy gift. They will move forward.
That’s because legacy giving is emotional. It’s not about taxes and legal stuff. That comes AFTER the supporter is helped to realize that they can be a hero in their own life story.
Your job is to facilitate experiences that help them see themselves as the hero. In other words, take them by the hand… have them see (and deeply feel) how their support will help others after their lifetime.
Then, make sure they recognize that this is how they can be empowered. Making this gift will make them a hero. And, remind them that… every time they think about this gift (after it has been planned) they will feel good knowing that they did a great thing and they are now a hero and will be remembered for all time as one.
Hope that helps.

Joshua Karlin
9 years ago

So the idea is to create opportunities and experiences for your donor to engage in the life changing work of your organization, showing them their ability to improve the lives of others and to make the world a better place.

8 years ago

Greg – do you know of good lists of ideas for #4? For example, we’re not a university or hospital with a donor wall, we rarely do benches or name trails (I’m at a land trust) and so now we mostly do lists of legacy members, memorial/tribute honorees, etc in our newsletters.

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