DUMB = Only Marketing Planned Gifts to Supporters When They Are About to Die

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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.

dumbRecently I was reminded of a presentation at a conference that baffled me for two reasons:
 

BAFFLED REASON #1–  The “planned giving marketing expert” ran through what seemed like one hundred charts and graphs at a blistering pace.

BAFFLED REASON #2–  While I was trying to make sense of the barrage, the presenter kept pounding home the point that you shouldn’t market planned gifts to your supporters until they are old (70’s+) and/or are about to die.

[Keep in mind that both of my parents are gone. My dad died at 63 and my mom died at 68. Both left modest gifts to charities in their estate plans.]

 
Here are 7 reasons why he was wrong:

1. Most people make their first legacy gift decisions well before they are near death – usually one, two or three decades before their death

2. Most people never report their legacy gift intentions to the beneficiary organization

3. Most people make their legacy gift decisions without anyone from the beneficiary organization present and without their knowledge

4. Many of your legacy gifts will come from people who never even made a donation (so they might never have gotten on your radar)

5. All organizations COULD find out when their supporters are making legacy gift decisions thanks to innovative technologies and strategies

6. All organizations COULD find out which supporters already made their legacy gift decisions and already included their organization

7. All organizations COULD find out who is interested in making a legacy gift decision and what kind of gift would make sense for each person

 
So why wait until just a few years before your supporters’ die to market legacy gifts to them?  By then most will have already made their decisions.
Sure, you might inspire some to make their first legacy gift decision. And, you might get some to switch the beneficiary of their gift from another organization to yours. So yes! This strategy will work. But only marginally well. And it is very expensive.
 
Instead of employing the speaker’s dumb strategy, do this instead:

  • Build awareness for legacy giving everywhere and at all times by attracting attention to the idea using every marketing channel you have
  • Generate interest by offering valuable information to your supporters (and be sure the information includes benefits to them)
  • Create desire by cultivating relationships with the prospects (leads) you attract with your valuable offers over time in a personalized, relevant way
  • Inspire action
  • Then steward your Legacy Society donors with all the appreciation you can muster

 
By doing it this way, you’ll lock in legacy gifts early. Then when your supporters start getting expensive junk mailers from another organization (as recommended by the speaker with 100 charts), they’ll toss them right in the trash and ask themselves, “Where were you when I was making my decision decades ago?”
 
Don’t be dumb. Don’t get baffled by charts and graphs. Don’t wait until people are dying before you ask them to leave your organization a legacy gift.
Treat your supporters respectfully — like lifetime partners — instead.
 

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