Wed, 27 Sep 2023

Planned contributions, or gifts made as part of a donor's financial or estate plan, are typically the greatest donations a donor will ever make. And if you promote planned to give to all of your supporters, you will unlock transformational donations for your entire donor network.


If you want your planned giving marketing to be effective, it must be donor-focused. Simply put, donor-centricity means that your organization places the donor at the center of all it does. You prioritize their ideals and needs over those of your organization.


This strategy will increase a prospect's affinity for or connection to your cause. Those with a strong affinity for your organization are your best possibilities for planned gifts and will give more over time. Even if you've been promoting planned contributions for a while, you may demonstrate their value to your contributors with a few simple adjustments.


Instead of stating "make a bequest donation to charity," you may say "make a gift in your will to support causes that have been significant in your life," which, according to research by planned giving expert Dr. Russell James, can raise donor interest in leaving a legacy gift by 28%.


Now that you understand what donor-centricity is, let's examine seven marketing methods for planned giving that you may utilize to create considerably more gifts:

  1. Create a planned giving page on your website if you don't already have one to educate your donors.

If you are concentrating on donor needs, you must make it simple and straightforward for your supporters to make planned gifts to your organization or to learn more about them.


Creating a landing page that describes the many types of planned gifts and how to manufacture them is one of the most effective methods for achieving this goal. Alternatively, you can add a section on your donation page where donors can request additional information.


Even if you currently have a specific page for planned giving, include the following:


Planned offering alternatives Clarify each giving option by discussing the significance of the gift to the giver. If your donor is leaving a bequest, the process can be rather simple. A donor simply leaves a portion of their estate to a nonprofit organization in their will. Other types of planned donations, such as charitable gift annuities, might be more complex and require more explanation.


Information about the person in charge of scheduled gifts. Your page may not have all the information your prospect requires, or they may have further inquiries. Provide contact information so they may phone or email the individual responsible for planned donations.


Details regarding your legacy society. A legacy society is an organization whose members have made planned gifts to your organization. These will be discussed in greater length later in this article, but they can serve as an excellent resource and community for your planned giving donors. On your page, describe the privileges and advantages of membership.


Include a distinct call to action. Your webpage should provide a button that leads to a form where visitors can seek additional information or even write a will. Place it in a prominent area and use language that communicates the desired response from donors. For instance, you could say, "Leave a legacy!" "


The American Red Cross excels at this by building an entire website for planned donations. They connect to it from their primary website and offer sections such as "How to Donate."

In addition, they include sample language for bequests, contact information for their planned giving team, and definitions of the various forms of planned gifts.


In addition, they supply their fans with an online will-making tool. Full disclosure: we collaborate with the ARC to make MinaWill available as a resource for this. The application delivers warm, donor-centric language that helps any of their fans make a free contribution in their will.


Write a page that you can bring to events or programs for folks who prefer or respond better to printed content. Focus your words on the impact a donor's donation can have, and discuss the benefits of the legacy society.


  1. Multiple times per year, provide planned giving information to all of your donors via email.

Many of your donors want to have a greater effect, but they may not understand what planned giving is or how to give to your organization. To be donor-centered, you must inform each contributor of possibilities where they can make a greater impact. By educating donors about planned gifts, you are assisting them in determining which giving choice best matches their charitable objectives and needs.


As with other forms of efficient marketing, repetition is essential to achieving success. A donor may open an email regarding planned giving multiple times prior to drafting a will and committing a gift.


Based on our experience with hundreds of non-profit organizations, we've determined that the most effective marketing plan consists of two to three separate campaigns per year in addition to multiple references in other communications. Standalone emails have a single call-to-action, such as "leave a legacy," but integrated mentions include planned giving alongside other giving alternatives.


The following are examples of planned giving marketing outreach:


  • A comprehensive campaign for National Will-Writing Month in August.
  • Postscript references in conventional fundraising solicitations
  • Donor legacy stories 
  • The newsletter cites
  • Donation options on Giving Tuesday
  • Trusteeship society announcements


We advocate choosing email over direct mail when sending outreach; even older individuals are more likely to respond via email. And do not undervalue the effectiveness of solitary emails. We have discovered that they are twice as effective at generating legacy gifts than emails with several giving options.


However, we recognize that incorporating scheduled giving outreach into a crowded communications calendar or with a smaller team can be challenging. But you don't need to compose your emails from scratch; we've built templates with excellently planned giving marketing language to save you or your team time and get you started.


  1. Be considerate and compassionate while writing about planned gifting.

Planned giving can be a touchy subject for donors. To be donor-focused when communicating about planned gifts, underline that they enable donors to have the most impact on their own lives. Even though you will not receive their donation until after they have passed away, donors can choose how their gift will be utilized. And with their assistance, your firm can plan for the future more effectively.


Additionally, keep in mind the following standard practices when writing or speaking about bequests:


Don't bring up death. According to research, mentioning death diminishes a person's desire to leave a lasting gift. This is because reminders of mortality elicit one of two responses: avoidance or the pursuit of a lasting influence. Instead of discussing mortality, your communications should focus on how your donors can leave a legacy. Avoid phrases such as "leave a legacy" since they imply death. Use phrases such as "create a legacy" or "leave a gift in your will" instead.


Recognize that this method of contributions may be unfamiliar to your donors. This can pique your prospect's interest as opposed to making them feel as though they "should have known" about this form of providing. Try the following: "Did you know? " or "You may be startled to learn..." in outreach materials.


Highlight the age range of anticipated gift-givers. This will assist in making your older donors feel less targeted and more a part of a larger audience. For instance, you could state, "Supporters of our humane organization, ages 18 to 88, have chosen to include us in their will or trust. Would you like information regarding how to join? "


  1. Personalize your marketing efforts to make your supporters feel appreciated.

Donors may feel as though they are speaking to an "entity" as opposed to a person while communicating with a nonprofit. Personalize your approach to make them feel like they're engaging with someone who cares about their values and needs.


Start by using the donor or prospect's first name in all written correspondence. Studies indicate that seeing or hearing your initial name activates the reticular activating system (RAS) in your brain.


Have you ever heard of selective hearing? You can blame that on your RAS. Because our RAS processes every piece of information we read or hear. And it filters this information so that we are aware of what warrants our attention.

Utilizing a donor's first name in planned giving marketing activates the brain.


Your initial name is a sound that a RAS enjoys hearing. By including it in your outreach, your prospect will feel as though the content was made specifically for them. This is an effective marketing tactic since it not only makes the content appear more pertinent but also raises the likelihood that the reader will retain the information. Nearly all email platforms (CRMs) allow you to personalize an email with a contact's first name, thus you should almost always employ this strategy for mass marketing.


Another strategy to personalize your outreach is to use more "you" words than "we" or "I" terms in correspondence with donors. Your donors will feel more connected to what they are reading, and the outreach will appear more engaging and conversational.


  1. Utilize donor tales as a potent type of social proof in your marketing for planned giving.

Donor testimonials are an effective marketing approach that can be used to highlight the physical impact of a bequest. And they are an effective approach to demonstrating your organization's appreciation for each gift.


Additionally, donor narratives are a powerful type of positive social proof. Social proof is the notion that supporters desire to act similarly to their peers. Positive social proof suggests that many of their peers are participating in the behavior. Donors are 15% more inclined to leave a bequest if they believe they are "one of many supporters" leaving a legacy. And gift size increases by over $6,000.


To keep your stories donor-focused, emphasize the impact of the donation and the donor's background rather than the size of the contribution. This example from Santa Clara University demonstrates how a bequest from an alumnus provided financial support for the school's students.


This testimonial from a contributor at Santa Clara University is a successful marketing strategy for planned giving.

  1. Create a legacy society to strengthen your bond with planned-gift donors.

A legacy society is a crucial component of a donor-centric planned giving marketing strategy. A legacy society, if you do not already have one, is a membership group for donors who have made planned gifts to your organization. It provides donors with an everlasting sense of camaraderie and connection to your cause.


Your society's members can promote your nonprofit organization. You can also strengthen your relationship with these donors by throwing private events, publicly acknowledging them, and inviting them to volunteer or advocate for your cause. This may also result in additional donations or plant the seeds for larger donations in the future.


This example from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation describes the benefits and qualifying requirements of their legacy society. They have also named their organization after a prominent supporter.


The Breast Cancer Research Foundation established a legacy society in order to foster a sense of community among its legacy contributors.


After selecting a society's name and logo, you may like to present new members with a gift. This can be a pin or a letter from the CEO or board expressing gratitude for the donation.

  1. Host smaller, invitation-only events for your most engaged leads.

One of the most effective donor-centric marketing methods is to invite your most engaged prospects to small, exclusive events, either in-person or remotely. This can make them feel more connected to your team and cause, and also introduce them to other devoted supporters.


Although the typical marketing funnel illustrates the steps a buyer takes before purchasing a product, it is also a useful tool for charitable marketing. Your contributors are viewing your nonprofit organization as an investment opportunity.


The conventional marketing funnel enables you to determine how near your prospects are to making a contribution.


When developing prospects, these activities are for individuals at the "conversion" stage or the bottom of the funnel. In other words, they are on the verge of making a scheduled donation. They have been receptive and engaged throughout the cultivation process, and only require a few additional touchpoints before committing.


Instead of focusing on what your organization needs, these events should be used to learn more about your prospects and educate them on the impact their legacy contribution could have. Have copies of your one-pager or brochure on hand; this can be a fantastic method to follow up with individuals who indicate interest verbally during your event.


You should also introduce them to the board and executive staff of your nonprofit. This will make them feel as though they are appreciated and essential parts of your firm.


Here are some examples of events you can host in person or online:


  • Informative lunches during which you can share further details about intended donations
  • Tours of your premises, during which prospects can meet your team or executives.
  • A board member or executive will throw a dinner or house party.

Check out our virtual events fundraising guide for advice on how to host successful virtual events. Want to simplify and expand access to planned giving for your donors? Minawill is useful.

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