Do you really need to buy a planned giving website?

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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.

pay estate taxIn most cases, for most nonprofits… NO! You don’t need to buy a planned giving website.
Here’s why: 
For decades, nonprofit leaders and staff have been led to believe that planned giving is complicated while most planned gifts are made in the form of simple bequests or by beneficiary designation. In fact, only the wealthiest estates pay an estate tax because it is levied only on the portion of an estate’s value that exceeds an exemption level — $5.43 million per person (effectively $10.86 million per married couple) in 2015.
So, you don’t need a complex website to offer sophisticated giving options to your supporters and volunteers when most of that content will appeal to just 0.5% of the site’s target audience. These people probably won’t visit the site anyway (if it’s filled with planning tools and tactics) since they have advisors to help with these issues.
More reasons why you might not need a planned giving site (or at least, not the one you currently have)
Full disclosure here… MarketSmart sells planned giving micro-sites. I prefer not to call them websites. Sure, they are online. But they aren’t websites. Instead, they are web pages designed to capture and nurture engagement using offers that resonate with supporters— not legalese, sophisticated planning tools and techniques. So, I don’t feel like we sell what so many other companies push on fundraisers.
Now, here are more reasons you might not need your current PG site after all.
Most planned giving sites attract very few visitors
Don’t let your planned giving website vendor/salesperson mislead you. Most of the traffic hitting your site is probably actually your own staff or just a bunch of bots pinging your site to see what’s there. Sometimes, several times in one day, Google might send their bots to your PG pages to crawl and index them. Not worth counting! Those bots will never donate. They aren’t human!
You want real visitors with real needs. You want them to engage and “convert” by filling out a form or by contacting you. Is your site getting them to do that frequently? If not, you probably don’t need the site you currently have. Or, you probably need a different strategy.
Most PG sites are just plain offensive to donors (but fundraisers love ’em)
They confuse donors. They offend them. They focus on death and taxes instead of life and symbolic immortality. When was the last time a donor complemented you on your planned giving website? Never? Then it’s time to rethink your strategy.
The problem is that all of the planned giving websites out there (besides ours) were written and designed to appeal to fundraisers  — not supporters. Why? Because that’s the best way to sell ’em.
Quick… Do you like your planned giving website? Does it appeal to you? If so, that’s a really bad sign unless you have truly already left a handful of organizations in your estate plan. If you haven’t (come on now… be honest), then you are not the person who should be judging your PG website because you’re not in the target market! Instead, you should follow the research which shows that most PG websites are confusing at best and offensive at worst. They use the wrong words, they use the wrong images, they provide the wrong engagement offers (or none at all) and they drive donors away.
Stop the madness!
You probably don’t need self-serve, cookie-cutter calculators hardly anybody uses. Instead, you need an engaging way to get supporters to raise their hands indicating that they are considering making a planned gift.
You probably don’t need instructional, legalistic videos and legalese that scare people because they remind them about their own death (and taxes). Yuck! Instead, you stories about supporters who planned a gift and found true meaning in their lives by doing so. Or you need valuable engagement offers the help supporters contemplate how they want to be remembered, who they’d like to honor and how their life story entwines with your organization’s mission.
You don’t need a dozen or so pages buried deep within your web structure that very few people ever visit. Instead, you need a lead generation system that captures information and then automatically cultivates relationships with supporters by sending them highly personalized and relevant communications inline with where they are in the consideration process and what interests them.
In many cases, you only need a few very simple, easy-to-understand pages that help your supporters recognize that they can make an impact after their lifetime— and they can feel good about deciding to do so now. You also need to make the proper bequest language easily available for a donor or advisor along with your tax ID # so another organization doesn’t mistakenly fight you for the gift.
Sure more pages might be better BUT ONLY if they are truly engaging and designed to convert (get the donor to opt-into the cultivation process) based on research and results.
Here are the best reasons to invest in a comprehensive planned giving website

  1. Do it if you can make sure the content is about the Fantastic Four (MarketSmart’s planned giving website content strategy based on research from my pal Dr. Russell James).
    • Helps them visualize their life story while realizing how their mission aligns with your organization’s mission  [Visualized autobiography]
    • Facilitates an experience that allows them to see themselves as the hero in their own life story [Autobiographical heroism]
    • Enables them to feel that they can live on in the hearts and minds of others [Symbolic immortality]
    • Provides a way for them to honor, pay tribute to or recognize others [Commemorative immortality]
  2. Do it if you have a strategy for driving traffic to the pages.
  3. Do it if you have a strategy for generating leads, cultivating relationships and stewarding new legacy society members.
  4. Do it if you have staff available for immediate follow-up.

Don’t do it just to check it off of your list of things to do. That’ll only result in wasted money.
Wondering how we make PG websites so effective? Give us a ring. We’ll show you.

Related Posts:

>>Should your planned giving website include a calculator page?
>>Copywriting basics for your legacy giving website

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