Want more planned gifts? Focus on why not how

There are a whole bunch of so-called “marketing companies” out there that say they help nonprofits get more planned gifts. I have a lot of issues with these firms. Here’s why:
1- Too often they seem to be more interested in selling cookie-cutter websites, spam emails, and printed newsletters than achieving real results. Here’s the problem with this:

    • Planned gift websites don’t get much traffic (rendering them relatively useless). So, absent a solid cultivation marketing plan devised to drive traffic to your PG pages, you won’t yield much in terms of a return on your investment. Can you justify that? Or are you simply “checking a box” telling yourself that paying for PG pages equals marketing. Don’t be led astray! For decades these firms have been telling fundraisers they need these sites when that has never necessarily been true. Today, find out how much traffic your site is really getting. Plus make sure that traffic isn’t the result of you and your staff clicking around. I bet you’ll find that the traffic is rather low and the results are negligible.

Check out our free webinar: How to Achieve Planned Giving Success Online

2- They tell nonprofits to employ “life-stage” marketing that makes assumptions about each supporter’s interest and consideration stage based mostly on their age.

  • Have you ever made an assumption about a supporter’s interests based on their age only to find yourself way off the mark? If so, multiply that error by thousands (or whatever number of donors you have). Do you really want to kind of mistake over and over on a mass scale?

3- The communications they send on behalf of their clients tend to focus mostly on how donors can make planned gifts and less on why they might want to do so.

  • Most of the messages that focus on how to make a planned gift should come at the stage of the consideration process after awareness has been aroused, interest has been generated, and desire has been built. In fact, the most powerful how communications should come directly from fundraisers or estate planners when donors are getting ready to take action. Alternatively, why communications help arouse awareness, generate interest, and build desire. Why communications seek to engage donors. They help them reflect on their lives. They help them recognize how your organization’s mission entwines with their personal missions. Most marketing communications should be why communications that move prospects to the action stage (the how stage).

Ramming messages down your donors’ throats based on your assumptions leads to a lot of wasteful, expensive marketing that ultimately misses the mark. Tweet this! But, even worse, it pisses your donors off because they recognize that you haven’t taken the time to learn about them. Instead, you just pelted them with your marketing.
Of course, the marketing vendors are happy to sell you this stuff. They benefit tremendously. But your donors aren’t thrilled about it. When was the last time someone called you saying, “Hey! I haven’t received my monthly planned giving e-blast! Please send it to me a.s.a.p.!” Never!!
In fact, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s precisely why your response rates are so low!
Your communications should never be sprayed at your supporters based on your assumptions. Rather, they should be streamlined, segmented and versioned based on why your donors care and what they have told you about themselves, their families, their consideration stages, their philanthropic interests, their life stories, and their passions.
Folks, let’s be kind to the people who make your mission possible.
Don’t make assumptions about your donors and don’t focus most of your communications on how they can make a planned gift. You’ll make them angry and you’ll make them less interested in taking action to support your cause.
Instead, find out why they care and where they are in the consideration process. Then send them highly relevant, personalized messages that make sense.
That’s how you’d want to be treated. Don’t you owe them the same respect?

Related posts:

>> Are you a show up and throw up fundraiser?
>> 3 Types of Stories Major and Planned Gift Officers Should be Telling

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Colleen Lukoff
Colleen Lukoff
6 years ago

I totally agree that the initial focus should be on the “why”. Only after there is interest is “how” relevant.

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