Do You Get Your Marketing Advice From an Attorney?

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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.

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom
Before I begin today’s rant, I want to point out that I think fundraisers have incredibly difficult jobs.  The challenges are immense.  You have to do so much with so little.  Time and resources are scarce.  Honestly, knowing how many directions in which fundraisers get pointed, pushed and pulled, I don’t know how most of them get their jobs done at all.
That led me to think about why there are so many attorneys involved in planned giving marketing.
Please stay with me on this before getting upset with this post.  I completely recognize that attorneys are needed for many types of sophisticated legacy gifts. But the vast majority of planned gifts will come in the form of simple bequests.  The number of wills being created in the U.S. is on the decline.  Beneficiary designations are an easy way for donors to arrange a gift after their lifetime.
Marketing planned gifts is essential today because most donors will never even talk to their beloved nonprofits before or after arranging their bequest.
“So why on earth do fundraisers take marketing advice from a bunch of lawyers?” This is what I thought to myself when I first began looking at who is supplying marketing advice to planned giving fundraisers.
Here’s a tongue in cheek explanation of how I think it might have happened:

One day, an Executive Director received a check from an attorney because a wonderful supporter left her organization in her will.  The Executive Director jumped for joy and shouted, “How can we get more checks like this?”

She took a look at the address from where the check originated and, sure enough, it came from an attorney. So, the Executive Director thought to herself, “I’ll get more from an attorney!”

She remembered that one of her board members was an attorney so she called him right away and said, “We just received a very large check from a wonderful supporter’s estate. Can you help me get more of these?” And the estate attorney replied, “Sure can!”

Soon enough, planned gift “marketing” firms started sprouting up— filled with… you guessed it… attorneys!

Conferences started popping up— filled with… you guessed it… attorneys!

And newsletters started shipping out— written by… you guessed it… attorneys!

In fact, I received one of these super-confusing (but very well-written in legalese) newsletters asking me to consider a CGA.  At the time I was just 37 years old.  And, in case you didn’t know it, that newsletter ticked me off so much it lead me to completely alter the course of my marketing firm and my life.

So there you have it.  Planned gift marketing was born— led by attorneys!  
Could this be the true origination of planned gift marketing?  Could an excited Executive Director and a gung-ho attorney actually have thought that they could become marketers that easily?
Who am I to say?  I’m just a marketing guy who happens to think that marketing is a very serious business that requires years and years of education and experience.
 
Maybe I’m crazy but I think marketing should be done by professionals.  Professional marketers— not attorneys!
You wouldn’t take legal advice from a marketer.  So, don’t take marketing advice from an attorney. 
Follow this very simple directive and your organization’s revenue will soar!
 

4 responses to “Do You Get Your Marketing Advice From an Attorney?”

  1. Karen Piel says:

    Greg –
    When I read this post I couldn’t help but comment! I was an estate planning attorney and recruited to become the planned giving officer at my organization 7 years ago. I am responsible for running the planned giving program, which (of course) includes marketing the program. I can honestly say it took me over 5 years to really get the fact that I was terrible at marketing. I had no idea what I was doing. I was talking about the features of planned gift vehicles and not the benefits or motivations and I was horrible at bringing emotion of any kind into the marketing pieces. In front of an individual or couple I was in my element, but “marketing” of any kind was a challenge. In time, I have learned that a different approach is needed and I seek out others who think differently than my brain is trained to work to make sure the marketing pieces I put out don’t look anything like the things I would have produced before I figured out I was doing it all wrong! Your post is not offensive to me in anyway, except for the fact that I wish I would have read it 7 years earlier.
    Karen

  2. Karen Piel says:

    Greg –
    When I read this post I couldn’t help but comment! I was an estate planning attorney and recruited to become the planned giving officer at my organization 7 years ago. I am responsible for running the planned giving program, which (of course) includes marketing the program. I can honestly say it took me over 5 years to really get the fact that I was terrible at marketing. I had no idea what I was doing. I was talking about the features of planned gift vehicles and not the benefits or motivations and I was horrible at bringing emotion of any kind into the marketing pieces. In front of an individual or couple I was in my element, but “marketing” of any kind was a challenge. In time, I have learned that a different approach is needed and I seek out others who think differently than my brain is trained to work to make sure the marketing pieces I put out don’t look anything like the things I would have produced before I figured out I was doing it all wrong! Your post is not offensive to me in anyway, except for the fact that I wish I would have read it 7 years earlier.
    Karen

  3. Greg Warner says:

    Thanks so much Karen! Sorry I didn’t figure it our earlier. 🙂

  4. Greg Warner says:

    Thanks so much Karen! Sorry I didn’t figure it our earlier. 🙂

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