I find myself saying, “It depends” quite a lot these days. But, seriously, the decision to target market to financial advisors depends on the nonprofit that employs you.
If you work for a Community Foundation, I’d say almost 90% of your marketing should support your efforts to meet and build relationships with local estate planning professionals. But if you work just about anywhere else I’d turn that upside-down so you use your marketing to help you generate leads and build relationships with individual donors.
Let’s get strategic about this.
In most circumstances, estate planning professionals (financial advisors) feel strongly that it is unethical for them to ‘recommend’ a specific charity to a client. Many have told me, point-blank, that they are very uncomfortable with the idea of doing that because their code of ethics demands complete objectivity.
So, although they might meet with you if you target market them, they probably won’t recommend your specific charity (or at least they shouldn’t).
Note: I have heard stories from planned giving professional describing situations where an advisor was asked by the donor to recommend a specific charity resulting in humongous gifts. Although, I can’t help but wonder if the advisor really recommended just one. I bet they recommended a category based on the donor’s interests or they might have suggested the donor look at a few charities, including yours. In other words, since the planned giving professional wasn’t in the room, I don’t think they can be sure that the advisor solely recommended the PGO’s employer.
2. Finding the advisors that need your help is challenging.
Although there are many cases when they will need you, for a large portion of their clients all they really need is your charity’s tax id #.
For the rest, the ones that need you, how will you find those needles in the haystack? There are about 250,000 financial advisors in the U.S. and that figure doesn’t include all the attorneys that can possibly create a will. That’s just financial advisors.
But let’s use that low number anyway to start developing a strategy and tactical plan that answers the following questions:
Face it, finding and meeting with financial advisors might make you feel good but that strategy won’t work as well or as quickly as one that focuses on donors first and foremost.
3. Call reluctance.
Call reluctance happens when faced with the task of cold- or warm-calling. No one likes rejection. So, when the time comes to pick up the phone and call some donors or prospects, we become reluctant and find other things to do instead. I believe many nonprofit legacy gift officers suffer from this syndrome. Then, instead of calling donors, they decide that they’d rather talk to an advisor instead. That makes sense because both legacy gift officers and advisors are similar to one another. Donors (especially major donors), on the other hand, are not similar to gift officers.
4. Golden rule.
If you are opting to spend tons of time with financial advisors when you really should be building relationships with donors, you might benefit from my golden rule. No, this is not the golden rule you already know. It’s my golden rule: He or she who owns the gold, rules!
In other words, fundraisers should go right to the source of the money, not the person warehousing the money and making recommendations to the person who owns the money (gold). The person who truly owns the money is the REAL decision-maker. Go there! Anything else is dawdling and should be thought of as a third-tier strategy. Exhaust your top-tier strategies, like calling donors, first!
As you might know, our top-tier strategies here at MarketSmart involve first surveying donors to generate highly qualified leads. Then using the rest of our system to cultivate and prioritize the leads. Using this strategy, fundraisers get exceptionally qualified leads ensuring that they won’t be able to think about third-tier strategies (like cultivating relationships with financial advisors).
Bottom line: In many cases, it’s simply not a sound strategy to target advisors. Sure, you’ll hit one out of the park every once in a while. But mostly you’ll spend your time spinning your wheels when you could be meeting with real, live donors instead.
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