Top 10 Planned Giving Marketing ‘To Dos’ for 2014

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to have planned giving expert Phyllis Freedman join us as a new regular contributor to the Mal Warwick Donordigital blog.  Her expertise has been invaluable on many client engagements, and we’re glad to share her insights with a wider audience. You can learn more about her and read her blog at Smart-Giving.com. Happy new year! I hope you had a successful year-end and that you’re as optimistic as I am about 2014. I’m back from my sabbatical, re-charged and looking forward to continuing our conversation. I thought I would start the year with my top 10 list. When you set your goals for the year, I hope you will consider these activities (if they aren’t already in place). They are not in order of importance because each is important. There are many more good ideas than just these ten. I welcome yours.
  1. Create a written, multi-channel, audience-specific planned giving marketing and stewardship plan. I regularly encounter organizations that have not yet done this most basic step. It should be a given.
  2. Go multi-channel. It’s past time now to fully integrate mail and online planned giving marketing and stewardship. If you haven’t started, get started. If you are underway, take it to the next level.
  3. Create conversion oriented landing pages to use in conjunction with your digital strategy. Instead of sending interested donors to static landing pages, ensure congruence between your e-offer and the landing page and give the donors who go there a next action to take that moves them along the continuum from curious to committed.
  4. Clean up your data. Personalized communication with prospects and with legacy society members will enhance your results. But when it comes to databases, garbage in = garbage out. It defeats the purpose of personalizing if the output is in error. It may not be possible to clean up your entire database but you can and should focus on your top audiences—legacy society members, planned giving inquirers, affinity audiences and so on for as far as you have the resources to go.
  5. Attempt personal contact with every legacy society member. There is nothing more important than making sure you have personal contact with your legacy society. Many organizations do a good job of mailing legacy society donors stewardship pieces. It’s the personal touch that’s often missing. It’s not possible to visit every donor (nor do all legacy society members want a visit) but there is no excuse for not calling each member at least once a year. There are a variety of ways of accomplishing this in-house or through out-sourcing. Even if you don’t reach the donor, leaving a message saying thank you is more than worth doing.
  6. Start or deepen your collaboration with your major gifts team. Ensure that they are asking their donors to make legacy commitments and that they are expanding your reach by stewarding legacy society donors.
  7. Set up a process for tracking and measuring results. Even though most planned giving marketing results are not statistically significant because of low response rates, results data can provide important direction to your program. The answer to “how did that mailing do?” should be quantitative, not qualitative. A corollary to this is to ensure that you have a good system of flags so you can mark the kind of response you are getting, e.g., the donor returned a survey, said she intended to include you, requested a specific kind of gift information.
  8. Create a conversion series—a set of touches with a specific cadence and message—to move inquirers to commitments. Donors who raise a hand by requesting more info or otherwise indicating an interest in planning are your hot prospects. Special treatment of these folks will yield results.
  9. Make time to read industry periodicals and to attend local planned giving council and national conferences. I have learned so much from generous presenters and from new and familiar colleagues. Though it sometimes seems like there is no time, you can’t afford not to go.
  10. Take a risk, go out on a limb, try something new. If you press the envelope and step outside your comfort zone you will realize outsize gains.
Phyllis-profilephotoPhyllis Freedman is an independent fundraising consultant specializing in gift planning marketing and the intersection of gift planning and direct marketing. During her 30-year career in nonprofit fundraising, Phyllis has consulted on gift planning, direct marketing and strategic fundraising for organizations large and small, national and local.  Learn more about Phyllis and read her blog at Smart-Giving.com.