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!
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